Freshman Orientation: Meet Carson City's Assemblyman, Al Kramer

Assemblyman Al Kramer

ASSEMBLYMAN Al Kramer

  • Freshman Republican, defeated incumbent Assemblyman P.K. O’Neill in the primary.
  • Served as Carson City treasurer, an elected position, for 20 years before running for office.
  • Represents Carson City area, including parts of Lake Tahoe and Washoe Valley.
  • District 40 leans heavily Republican (48 percent Republican, 31 percent Democrat, 15 percent nonpartisan in 2016 election).
  • Won 29.3 percent of the vote in the 2016 primary, narrowly defeating incumbent Assemblyman P.K. O’Neill, veteran and physician assistant Sam England and Republican activist Chris Forbush.
  • Won 59.5 percent of the vote against Democratic candidate Michael Greedy (a retired Public Utilities Commission member) and Independent American candidate John Wagner.
  • Serving on Commerce and Labor, Government Affairs and Taxation committees in the 2017 session.

FAMILY AND EDUCATION:

A Northern Nevada native, Al Kramer’s family has been in Nevada since the mid-1850s. Born in Reno in 1948, Kramer graduated from Fernley High School and attended Brigham Young University in Utah, where he majored in business and met his future wife, Candice. After enrolling at the University of Nevada, Reno’s MBA program and after the birth of his first child, Kramer enlisted in the U.S. Army where he became a military intelligence officer, spending 13 months in Korea during five years of active duty.

After leaving the service, Kramer and his family moved to Southern California where he worked as a computer programmer for several years and earned his MBA at Claremont Graduate University.  Concerned about raising his three children in the “punk rock atmosphere” of Southern California, Kramer and his family moved back to Carson City where he began working for the state of Nevada in 1990. Kramer has three children — Daniel, Alex, and Joy — and according to his legislative profile enjoys “hiking, fishing, gold panning, (and) problem solving.”

CAREER

Kramer spent about 15 years working as a computer programmer in the private sector before working for the government, including stints with Libbey Glass and a heavy manufacturing company.

He was elected Carson City’s treasurer in 1994, and spent the next 20 years in that role before spending roughly a year as the investment deputy for Nevada’s state treasurer. As city treasurer, Kramer says he authored a piece of legislation allowing Carson City to become a “no turn off” city, allowing for delinquent municipal water, sewer and storm drain utility fees to be collected with property taxes instead of being turned off and on.

He also wrote a program for the state treasurer's office that uses historical data to forecast money coming in and out of state coffers. Kramer says the program has already extended state investments to earn several million dollars in interest income.

Kramer retired in February 2016 when he started his campaign for state Assembly.

ON NEVADA AND THE ISSUES:

What about Nevada are you most proud of? What about Nevada embarrasses you most?

I kind of like that we’re still a state where there’s a lot of places you can go, I like the openness of it, you can go out in recreation in Nevada without being on somebody else’s property the whole time. Whether it’s hunting or hiking or camping or something like that, there’s lot of open spaces that you’re allowed to go to without anybody telling you what the rules are.

I don’t like that we’re spending ourselves into debt. We keep coming up with new ways to spend money. There’s just no way they can keep up with raising taxes to pay for all of the obligations that they’ve already (pledged).

Please list your top three priorities for the 2017 Legislative Session and explain. (Feel free to reference specific BDRs or group BDRs together by general policy area.)

I do have bill drafts, but they’re not do-or-die. They’re bill drafts that would be good, but we’ll see where they go. As far as the important things, I think the important thing is to play defense and try not to let what happened last session go away.

Secondly, I really don’t like these forfeiture rules we’ve got in Nevada, and I know there’s going to be a bill out there for that, and I’m very much in favor of backing off on the forfeiture rules we have in Nevada. Just because you happen to have some money in your car doesn’t mean that you have it illegally. You should be able to have access to it unless they prove you’re guilty of a crime.

There’s issues on taxation that are coming up, where they want to change the way property taxes work. And that happens to be an area I’ve got some expertise in, and I’m hoping I can be there to tell them some of the unintended consequences of making some of the changes that there are some things we can do that have very little, wouldn’t mess with the system very much at all and I hope we can do those, and even if they kind of look like a tax increase but kind of don’t look like a tax increase, I’d probably be for them.

Under what circumstances should Nevada raise taxes? Would you support a tax increase this session?

With this Commerce Tax the last time around, we created all those different categories of taxes, any number of which could change in any given session. The percentages could change. Or the fact that the $4 million mark (annual revenues to be mandated to pay Commerce Tax) could go down. And right now we don’t know that so I think that was a really bad law to put in because it telegraphs to anybody thinking about expanding in Nevada or coming to Nevada that we might have a big tax increase coming up. And so I think that law, I don’t think we did ourselves any favors as far as attracting future business with that.

Frankly right now, I’m in favor of the bill draft that (Nevada state Treasurer) Dan Schwartz put in asking the state to look at how we change the Modified Business Tax and the other taxes on businesses in the state, to see if we can’t come up with something that maybe be revenue neutral or maybe just a little more, but is also more fairly done and with less administrative cost and perhaps less reporting by the people, and so we don’t have to have the Nevada IRS.

What programs/parts of the state would be best to cut? What programs/areas need more funding in 2017?

Well, you know there’s always places you can spend money but the trick is to find the money to do it with. If (it were possible), I’d take some school dollars and move them into mental health, especially in the rurals, there’s some real problems.

Even in Carson, although Carson has developed some things with Carson-Tahoe Medical Center, that are doing some neat things. But in some of the rurals, by the time you get transportation to go into where there’s a counselor, people just won’t go. It just takes a whole day and they just can’t do it.

So we need some ways of doing it either over the internet, or something to get some services to where some of these people live, and not force those people into the urban areas. Sometimes that means they don’t have their friends or families for support, and they have to go through the stress of living alone or living in a new place. It’s just not what you want to do.

Nearly all legislators list diversifying Nevada's economy and creating new, permanent jobs for Nevadans among their highest priorities. What specifically do you personally plan to do to help accomplish that?

I’ll say this: Yes of course we want those high paying jobs, but we also want them with absolutely no pollution, and we also want them to generate their own electricity. You know, come on, get real.

When you get high-paying jobs, you’re going to get a whole collection of lower paying jobs to go along with them. People come here to service those people that have those high-paying jobs.

If Nevada wants to change its law to be a tax-unfriendly state, we’re not going to see those people come. You attract them by having stability in your tax structure. What I want to keep us doing is trying to stay away from taxes that hurt new companies coming to Nevada and stay with a good tax structure that people can figure out what we’re doing and then it’s likely to be that way for the next ten years.

What should be Nevada's next move on solar policy?

Net metering, as it was written before, basically says we’re going to let you produce power and we will buy that power at the same price that we would normally sell that power to you. And that’s inherently unfair to the rest of us because some of that price we pay is for the transmission of power. And now if you’re going to give those people to sell their power at the price that we buy it for, the element of transmitting the power is now gone away, and so in a sense everyone else is subsidizing those people. I don’t think that’s fair.

So I don’t have any problem with buying back the power, it just shouldn’t be at the same price they have to buy it from. I think we can come up with a number that would work, but that number might not be the same all over the state.

In September, the Nevada Supreme Court blocked funding for the state's school choice program. What legislative changes do you think should be made to the program this session?

I think that’s going to be the big compromise. I think you’re going to see high-income students either not being allowed or being allowed at less than the $5,100. If things work out the way I hope they do, I think the governor will insist on that being passed first, and if that doesn’t pass, then virtually nothing else will get passed all session because the governor won’t sign it. That’s what I think, but we’ll see,

Should Nevada change its minimum wage? If yes, at what level should it be set?

I think the minimum wage we have now, which is linked to the federal minimum wage, works fine for Nevada. We’re a dollar an hour more than the federal.

Are there any particular issues on which you see yourself working across party lines? If so, which ones? If not, why not?

I plan on working strongly with the Democrats this session. I can see many bills that I wish I could be a sponsor of that are being brought forth by Democrats. There are a few things where I’ll dig my feet in the sand and say no further, but for the most part, there’s things that need to be done, we need to do them, and it doesn’t matter who brings them forward.

What I’m going to try and do is build relationships with people with good ideas and who can speak well, and let them know that on certain issues, they’ve got my support. The issues that they don’t have my support with, they should know that as well.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.