On the Record: The policy positions of Republican congressional candidate Danny Tarkanian
It happens like clockwork.
Candidates announce their bids for office. Then the attack ads follow in short order, unabashedly targeting their voting records and more.
We’re here to help. The Nevada Independent already produces fact-checks for political advertisements and off-the-cuff remarks, but we also want to get ahead of the campaign game.
When politicians announce their candidacy for public office, we’ll roll out “On the Record” — our look at their voting history and stances on a broad array of subjects.
Now up: Republican congressional candidate Danny Tarkanian, the businessman who decided to run for Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District in March after President Donald Trump encouraged him to clear the field in the U.S. Senate race for Sen. Dean Heller. Issues are in alphabetical order.
Tarkanian is pro-life — a position he has consistently iterated in his campaigns for office over the years — but he says that his belief is “different from me legislating as an elected official where many of my constituents won't have the same faith I have.” (Tarkanian is Catholic.) He says he will “vote the way the law has required” under Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that affirmed the legality of a woman’s right to an abortion.
However, he does not believe that taxpayer dollars should pay for abortions, opposing funding for Planned Parenthood and subsidies for plans on the individual exchange that cover abortions. In 2016, he responded to a pre-primary voter guide saying that he would support legislation to protect the right to life of a person from conception to death, with only an exception to save the life of the mother.
“Why should the legislators force a person who has the belief that life starts at conception to subsidize and use their taxpayer dollars for somebody else's abortion?” Tarkanian said in an interview with The Nevada Independent.
Tarkanian said that he’d like to see even more money allocated toward school choice programs than the $20 billion proposed by Trump. Under the president’s proposal, the money would be distributed to states with school choice programs and therefore incentivize states without such programs to adopt them.
Looking at the political headwinds, he said that he doesn’t think that Nevada’s Education Savings Accounts (ESA) program, created legislatively in 2015, will realistically be funded with state dollars. The Nevada Supreme Court struck down the funding method in September 2016, saying that lawmakers cannot take money from public schools to be used for private educational programs, and an effort to get ESAs funded during the 2017 session failed to move forward.
“Anybody who understands the political system knows the last time, the only time we've had a Republican-controlled Legislature and governor's office in 89 years, they failed to get this done,” Tarkanian said. “It's not going to happen again.”
Asked whether he thinks education funding should be increased, Tarkanian said that it depends on where the money goes.
“If I say no, then I'm saying I don't want more money for education, but if you say yes where is the money coming from and is it going to make the education system better?” Tarkanian said. “It depends on how the money is being spent, and I'm a big believer that our debt is going to have an incredible detrimental effect to the most vulnerable people in our country if we don't do something to stop it. So I'm not going to go back to Washington, D.C. and be writing blank checks.”
Tarkanian also said he would like to see children who don’t speak and understand English fluently be placed in a separate class to learn English first before they are integrated with the rest of the children, although he said this is a state issue, not a federal one. He said that he believes his children fell behind attending public school because several kids in the class couldn’t speak English.
“All three of them told me the same thing — so I believe this happened and this should never happen — is the teacher would find a bilingual student in the class and the teacher would give the lesson in English, the bilingual student would then give the translation in Spanish, then if there was a question, the Spanish-speaking student would give that in Spanish to the bilingual student who would then give that in English to the teacher,” Tarkanian said. “... Imagine what that does to their education system, and what they're learning in a school year when they have all of this going on. Why are we doing that?”
Tarkanian believes that the right to defend one's self and one's family is not just a constitutional right, but a God-given one, too, according to his campaign website.
"A right that has nothing to do with hunting or target-shooting. It’s about self-defense, period," his website states. "And every time I hear a gun-grabber ask, 'Why do you need a weapon like that?' – the simple answer is: To defend myself and my family against a bad guy who has a similar weapon."
Tarkanian says that his top gun rights priority in Congress will be passing a national concealed carry reciprocity law so that people will be allowed to travel with concealed weapons from state to state. (Right now, there is no national standard for who can carry a concealed weapon or in which states those permits are valid. Concealed weapons permits in Nevada are honored in many states in the Southwest and Midwest but few on the East or West coasts, according to the website Guns to Carry.)
Asked about so-called assault weapon bans proposed earlier this year in Congress, Tarkanian says that there’s no such thing as an assault weapon and that a lot of people get “great pleasure” in using “semi-assault weapons.” (The Federal Assault Weapons Ban of 1994 prohibited the manufacture of certain semi-automatic firearms it deemed assault weapons, but lawmakers have recently proposed banning the sale of new semi-automatic firearms with certain military-style features.)
“There aren't any assault weapons on the streets now,” Tarkanian said. “They're semi-automatic, and people call them assault weapons. They're not. There are a lot of people that get great pleasure in using those semi-assault weapons, and they're not the ones that are committing the crimes.”
He also said he doesn’t support raising the age limit on buying guns to 21, saying that people have different beliefs and traditions on how and when they use guns.
“So you're going to say because some of these crimes have happened — Florida, for example — that a family that grew up in Kentucky, their heritage and tradition is that the father takes the kids out and they go hunting, we should stop them from doing so when they're honest law abiding citizens? No, I think that's wrong,” Tarkanian said.
He also said that he doesn’t believe it is right to send 18-year-olds off to war but ban them from having guns when they return.
“If there's a reasonable solution to greatly reduce these tragedies that do not infringe upon people's Second Amendment rights, I think we should discuss them but they've got to be reasonable solutions,” Tarkanian said.
He added that if people don’t carry out acts of violence with guns they’ll use bombs or even vehicles instead. He said that he believes that at least some of the issues relating to violence in the country are the result of a de-emphasis on the two-parent family and family values. Some, including the Brookings Institution, have made the case that the U.S. tax code and rules to receive welfare benefits discourage two-parent households.
“One of the things that I heard when I campaigned in 2012 from the African-American community is the laws provide better benefits if you're in a single-family home as opposed to if you're in a dual-family home because you're earning a lower income and you qualify, so they discourage the father from being in the home,” Tarkanian said. “And the African-American community by and large — and I got this from the head of the NAACP — feels that one of the problems they have with the crime and violence in the African-American community is the de-emphasis of the two parent family.”
He also said that he does not support taking guns away from people without due process, as Trump suggested in February, and suggested that Hollywood take some responsibility for how violence is portrayed in the media, like movies and video games.
Tarkanian says that he supports a ban on bump stocks, the devices that make semi-automatic weapons fire more like automatic ones that were used in the Las Vegas shooting.
Tarkanian supports repealing the Affordable Care Act, saying that his own family’s insurance premiums have gone up and for coverage with higher deductibles since the law was passed. He said he previously paid $480 for premiums monthly for a family of six with a deductible of $1,000 and a $25 co-pay and now pays $1,840 a month for his family, with a $5,000 deductible and a $150 co-pay to see a specialist.
He has to pay pricey medical bills for his son, Jerry, who had a stroke and went in last year with another possible stroke. Tarkanian said he pays $1,200 a year just for his son’s eight specialist visits a year, not to mention the $5,000 deductible.
“Now maybe this is a minority of people which is a majority of people are getting federal subsidies, but why are we screwing these people — meaning the people that work real hard and want to take care of and support their families, the ones that are doing it the right way, meaning you have both parents together, you're working hard, you're trying to do this — and we're saying, ‘Hey, we're going to increase your insurance’ — what was mine? — ‘400 percent in premiums,’” Tarkanian said.
Tarkanian said he would like to see people be allowed to take Health Savings Accounts with them from job to job, something he hopes would foster more competition in the health-care market.
He also said that, although Congress repealed the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate as part of the tax package, it still needs to address the rising costs of health care.
“The Republican Party loves to say, ‘Hey, we got rid of the individual mandate so Obamacare is almost gone.’ No, that's not the case,” Tarkanian said. “For the people that need insurance, their insurance premiums are just going to skyrocket even higher because if you take away the individual mandate — which I'm certainly not a big fan of, a fan of — it's going to kill everyone else.”
He blamed the high costs of prescription drugs on lawmakers who are getting “tens of thousands and maybe hundreds of thousands of dollars” from pharmaceutical companies.
Tarkanian said lowering the overall costs of health care will keep people covered under the existing structures of the Medicare and Medicaid programs. He said he would like to see “as many people as covered as possible” without “gouging the people who are paying for it."
He said he would be in favor of Nevada implementing work requirements for able-bodied individuals in Medicaid, as other states are pursuing.
Tarkanian said that Congress needs to address border security, stop visa overstays and end so-called chain migration, or family-based migration, and end the visa lottery program before it addresses what to do with people who have received a deferral from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
He said there’s no reason why the country shouldn’t be able to stop visa overstays, which now exceed the number of illegal border crossings. In 2016, about 629,000 foreign visitors who were expected to leave the country were still in the U.S.
He also said that immigration sponsorship under family-based migration should be limited, as the president has proposed, to spouses and children. He said it’s “ridiculous” to extend sponsorship to cousins and other family members.
“It’s not right,” Tarkanian said. “It’s not right to anybody else who’s doing it the right way.”
He said the one thing that was missing from the president’s four-point immigration plan — which addressed the DACA program, chain migration, ending the visa lottery program and border security — was any mention of E-Verify, the government’s employment eligibility verification system. Trump did, however, include a proposal to require all employers to use E-Verify in his most recent budget proposal and Congress considered the measure last fall.
“We've been talking about this since I ran in 2010. Why wouldn't we want to verify the people that are working in our country that are here legally, particularly if we have this type of immigration reform?” Tarkanian said.
After all of that has been addressed, “then I think you can discuss what happens to DACA children and the others that are here that have not been a problem and are an asset to the country that are paying taxes, working and so forth,” Tarkanian said.
He said that he doesn’t think that the U.S. should just give citizenship to those individuals when there have been people waiting for years to go through the process legally but considered some sort of legal residency an option. He says that he doesn’t support rounding people up and deporting them.
“There's a real factor in this equation as a fair approach to everybody that's been involved,” Tarkanian said. “But I have never said that we should round people up and deport them.”
He said he “absolutely” supports the federal government withholding all federal funds from so-called sanctuary cities that do not cooperate with federal immigration activities.
On refugees, Tarkanian said there should be “as extreme vetting as you can possibly have for people that come from countries that have a propensity for terrorism.” However, he said the U.S. should “certainly” be accepting refugees from those countries.
He noted that his grandmother, Rose, came to the U.S. as a refugee to escape the Armenian Genocide during World War I.
“She was one of the few people to get out of her village alive, and she made it to the United States, which accepted her as a refugee, but she did it the right way,” Tarkanian said. “She came through Ellis Island. She got through the process and she came in here.”
Tarkanian said that he did not support the ballot measure to legalize recreational marijuana. However, he said that he supports Congress leaving whether or not marijuana should be legal up to the states and that Congress should ensure that marijuana-related businesses are able to store their money in banks.
In a January statement after Attorney General Jeff Sessions decided to rescind the Obama-era Cole Memo — which essentially assured states that had legalized marijuana that the federal government would largely leave them alone — Tarkanian said that it was “time for Big Brother to back off.”
“Regardless of how you personally feel about marijuana use, the citizens of Nevada have spoken,” Tarkanian said in the statement. “They voted to not just legalize medical marijuana, but recreational, as well. It’s a decision Nevadans made for the State of Nevada and the federal government needs to recognize and honor our 10th Amendment right to do so.”
Tarkanian said that “some” federally held public lands should be turned over to the state. He said that the federal Bureau of Land Management should release lands to the state or local government that could be used for residential and economic purposes.
“This land could be used to either build homes, to build industrial complexes. You can build retail centers, create jobs for the community, but because the federal government and the BLM don't think they can get enough money from it, they hold onto it or they hold onto them piecemeal,” Tarkanian said.
He said he supports protecting environmental areas such as national monuments and national forests, but that any other land that can be used and there’s a market for should be released to the state or local governments to allow that type of development and use.
In 2016, Tarkanian told Nevada Public Radio that Nevada taking over all of the federal land within its borders would be an “astronomical cost” and that “there are certain things the federal government should have control over.”
Tarkanian said that he thinks the country needed a tax cut but that he believes the tax bill, passed by Congress just a couple weeks before Christmas last year, should have gone further toward helping individuals and small businesses.
“It certainly was very aggressive with reducing the tax bills for the corporations, but there's some things in there that I thought it missed out on that should've been in there,” Tarkanian said.
Tarkanian said that he would like to have seen further cuts in the bill so that pass-throughs — a type of business that isn’t subjected to any separate business tax but pay individual income tax when the business’s income is passed through to its owners — would have similar tax relief as corporations. Under the bill, corporations received a hefty cut from a top rate of 35 percent down to a flat 20 percent, while the pass-through tax rate dropped from about 39.6 percent at the highest to about 31.8 percent at the highest, according to The New York Times. (Some analysis, however, has shown that the total tax burden is still lower for pass-throughs than for corporations, which are taxed twice.)
Tarkanian also said that he would have liked to see deductions to specific special interest groups eliminated. The tax bill extended a special tax credit to sparkling wine producers and lowered taxes on storing and staffing private jets, among other things.
“Most people that understand the political system understand that there is an inherent advantage for the large companies and the wealthy business people to influence legislation toward their advantage, and then we complain about having disparity in income with the shrinking of the middle class compared to the incredible wealth of the upper class is getting,” Tarkanian said. “If we really want to do something about it, let's put us all on a level playing field and give the middle class the same opportunities as the upper class.”
Tarkanian said he’d also like to eliminate the full amount of tax deductions given to high-tax states. The recently-passed bill capped state and local tax deductions at $10,000, but now New York, California, New Jersey and Illinois may find a workaround to let their residents get the full deduction anyway.
“I think you're now favoring states with higher taxes and making the states that have lower state taxes have to foot the bill for that because then they're paying more taxes because they don't have to pay state taxes,” Tarkanian said.
Tarkanian said that the U.S. has a “huge trade imbalance” and that the country should negotiate the fairest trade deals possible.
“Most reasonable people believe we need vibrant international trade but they should be fair trade deals and as the world's greatest economic force we should have the best terms on those trade deals. We do not have those now,” Tarkanian said.
He said that China has “cheated” on trade deals and that Trump is not trying to get into a trade war by raising tariffs on aluminium and steel but instead stop “China and other countries from cheating on the deals and make it fair to all sides.”
He also said he supports the border adjustment tax, which exempts exported goods and subjects imported goods to taxation, proposed by House Republicans last year. All advanced countries except for the United States already have value-added taxes that are border adjusted.
“Imagine this we have an American business that creates an automobile and they want to sell it to China. So it's taxed when it leaves our country, it gets taxed because of the profit of it. It goes to China, and China and the rest of the world does the opposite,” Tarkanian said. “They tax products coming into the country but not products coming out so the American businesses have to pay a tax when the product leaves the country and is sold for profit and they pay another tax to the country it goes into.”
Tarkanian said that he doesn’t want to see a high-level nuclear waste repository built at Yucca Mountain but rather a nuclear reprocessing facility, something that he has advocated for since at least 2010. Still, in February he praised the Trump administration’s proposal to include $120 million in the budget to restart licensing for the nuclear repository at Yucca Mountain.
In a statement — issued when Tarkanian was still running for U.S. Senate against Republican Sen. Dean Heller — Tarkanian said that Yucca Mountain could create thousands of jobs, bring billions of dollars in revenue and foster technological innovation in the state.
"With Yucca Mountain, Nevada has the opportunity to become a world leader in the reprocessing of nuclear fuel and eliminate 97 percent of our country's nuclear waste,” Tarkanian said in the statement. “In pushing to revive the project, the Trump administration recognizes how important Yucca Mountain is to Nevada and America. Dean Heller should be ashamed of himself for standing against President Trump, a safer America, and a more prosperous future for Nevada."
Tarkanian, in an interview with the Independent, noted that any sort of nuclear fuel reprocessing program would take a federal policy shift, since President Jimmy Carter banned nuclear reprocessing in 1977 over worries that it could lead to the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and highlighted reprocessing efforts in France and other countries.
“Once you build [a nuclear reprocessing facility], you reprocess the nuclear spent fuel so you're going to have hundreds of high paying jobs in the six figures for people that are overseeing the reprocessing of it. Then, the state is going to be able to sell that to other places around the country — maybe around the world — and then have a credible revenue stream coming in,” Tarkanian said.
He also believes that turning Yucca Mountain into a reprocessing facility would make it the “greatest research and development park in the entire world” and would turn UNLV and UNR into “the leading research institutions in the world.”
To those who worry about transporting nuclear spent fuel, Tarkanian says that the state could find a route that does not take the material through Las Vegas and argues that the government has been successfully transporting low-level nuclear waste to storage sites for decades, so why should high-level waste be any different. He believes that storing low-level nuclear waste long term at an above-ground storage site is more dangerous than the transportation issue.
Updated 5-1-18 at 9:04 a.m. to clarify that Tarkanian's website says that he believes that the right to defend one's self and one's family — not the right to guns generally — is a God-given right.