Familiar opponents confront Dina Neal in Assembly District 7

Assemblywoman Dina Neal is starting to get a strong sense of deja vu.

The Assembly District 7 primary will see the Democratic incumbent face the same opponent she trumped on her way to a second term two years ago.

If she makes it to the Nov. 4 general election, Neal is set to face the same Republican foe she toppled by 46 points in the 2012 general election.

If re-elected, she figures the biggest challenge facing the 2015 legislative session will be the most prominent issue from the 2013 session: education, and how to pay for it.

One approach — a proposed 2 percent statewide business margins tax aimed at raising $700 million annually to expand educational programs and bolster per-pupil spending — already is on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Neal, the Assembly Education Committee vice chairwoman, balked at the proposal last session but said she would be willing to take another look at it this time around.

She voted to support countywide property tax hikes last year and backed a tax-funded education trust fund initiative voted down in 2011.

“(The margins tax) is a unique tax, but I just felt the way it was set up wasn’t going to get the dollars needed,” she said. “It’s the teachers’ right to put a solution on the table, but if I had to do it today I would vote neutral.”

State officials have hinted that bills which would allow cash-strapped municipalities to file for bankruptcy — or else loosen state-imposed property tax caps — might be on their way to the Legislature in February.

Neal, a North Las Vegas resident who is the daughter of longtime state Sen. Joe Neal, didn’t show much faith in either plan to prop up Nevada’s money-troubled cities.

She opposes lifting or amending state property tax caps first enacted in 2005 and said she would lean against statutory tweaks to state receivership, Nevada’s broadly untested alternative to municipal bankruptcy. City officials haven’t said where they stand on the effort.

Stephen Taylor also opposes the proposed changes, one of few areas where Neal and her two-time primary opponent seem to agree.

Taylor, who never has held elected office, supports the teachers union-backed margins tax, an effort he expects will help educate the state’s workforce and bolster economic development.

“We wouldn’t be in this situation if we had done our jobs and funded education in the first place,” Taylor said of the margins tax. “I have kids still in school, and I support it. … The fact of the matter is that companies need to chip in their share.”

The former construction worker is running on a platform of job creation and education reform, areas where he said Neal simply hasn’t rolled up her sleeves.

Taylor lost his 2012 primary battle with the two-term assemblywoman in a landslide. He expects next month’s grudge match will turn out different.

“If you’re that effective as a legislator, how could someone like me, a no-name, pick up 30 percent of the vote?” Taylor said.

Whichever Democrat emerges from the primary is expected to take Assembly District 7, which is home to more than 14,100 registered Democrats and fewer than 4,700 Republicans.

Republican insurance broker Brent Leavitt will face the top Democratic vote-getter from the primary. He faces no GOP competitor.

Contact James DeHaven at jdehaven@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3839. Find him on Twitter: @JamesDeHaven.

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