CARSON CITY — The three Republican candidates for state controller in the June primary all tout their background and experience and argue that they are the most qualified to represent the GOP in the race for the office in the November general election.
Cort Arlint and Barry Herr are certified public accountants who work and live in Southern Nevada. Arlint is also a tax attorney. Carson City resident Ron Knecht is an economist and a self-described “numbers and policy nerd.”
GOP voters will decide June 10 which candidate will move on to the general election.
The job is open with current Controller Kim Wallin being term-limited out of office after two terms. Assemblyman Andrew Martin, D-Las Vegas, will be the Democrat on the November ballot. Democrat Michael Schaefer was removed from the ballot because he had not established state residency. Tom Jones is the Independent American Party candidate.
Arlint said his experience includes assisting in the creation of Nevada’s single state audit report as an employee of the CPA firm Kafoury, Armstrong &Co. But he said the findings he and his colleagues identified never ended up in the final report.
“I think I can improve upon the system, and I want to make sure Nevada accurately reports the state’s unfunded liabilities and expenses,” he said.
Arlint said being a licensed attorney and a CPA sets him apart from his primary opponents. He worked for a decade for CPA firms and has owned his own firm for six years.
“I’m young, but I’m more ambitious than the other guys,” he said.
Arlint said that as an auditor it is frustrating to identify issues but not see them get addressed. As controller, he said he would be in a position to change that.
While he wouldn’t be involved in tax policy as controller, Arlint said he is opposed to the business margins tax measure on the November ballot to raise revenue for public education.
“A lot of my clients are struggling,” he said. “The way to increase taxes is by increasing the number of jobs through business expansion.”
Herr said he believes the controller’s office should be overseen by a CPA although it is not a requirement to hold the office.
While coming to the profession late in life at age 48, Herr said he has performed audits and is president of the Nevada Society of CPAs.
“I’m familiar with both sides of the aisle,” he said. “We need someone who can hit the ground running and not rely on a deputy controller.”
Herr said he will make transparency in the office a priority to give Nevada residents a clearer picture of how their money is being spent, from the state level to the local school district.
“Transparency would hold all of us to a higher standard,” he said.
Herr ran for the office against Wallin as the incumbent four years ago, losing by about 5 points. He also ran in 2012 for the Clark County Commission seat held by Steve Sisolak, losing by more than 20 points.
He called the proposed business margins tax bad legislation and poorly written.
Before spending more on public education, an effort needs to be made to be more efficient and cut costs, Herr said.
Knecht said he is the superior choice because of his varied background, including serving in the state Assembly and as a member of the university system Board of Regents.
“I’m a plain-speaking numbers and policy nerd, and that’s just what you need for controller,” he said.
The controller’s office employs accountants, and Knecht said he has supervised accountants.
“But what voters, taxpayers and the Legislature, the people of Nevada need is not just one more person to compile and turn out financial reports,” he said. “What is needed is someone with vision and energy to dig through those massive reports and pull out the information to allow voters, taxpayers and the Legislature to determine if their tax dollars are being spent efficiently and effectively.”
Knecht said that if he were controller now, he would post on the office website an analysis of the potential effects of the margins tax on the economy. As controller, Knecht said he would also reach out to Nevadans on a regular basis to talk about the status of state spending, including the Public Employees Retirement System.
That has not been an emphasis of the office in the past, he said.
Knecht said he has been endorsed by the Nevada State Republican Party because of his lengthy conservative record in public office. More parental choice through charter schools and vouchers would help improve Nevada’s public education system, he said.
Knecht had worked as a senior economist for the state Public Utilities Commission for more than 10 years until he was terminated in 2012. Knecht said the reason for his termination was allegedly engaging in political activities, although no evidence of such activity was provided. The charge was politically motivated, he said. As an at-will employee, Knecht said he did not challenge his dismissal in court.
Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at email@example.com or 775-687-3900. Find him on Twitter: @seanw801.