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June 15, 2019

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Sharron Angle addresses media for 3 minutes on taxes then bolts

Sharron Angle

Sharron Angle

SPARKS — After more than a month dodging the press, Republican Senate nominee Sharron Angle on Wednesday invited reporters to an event intended to amplify her campaign message that lower taxes and less regulation are the only ways to spur economic recovery.

It was the first time since her primary victory that she had agreed to mingle with the media. Political observers speculated it might signal a shift in Angle’s post-primary strategy of using the media solely as fundraising mechanisms.

Alas, Angle’s more media-friendly moment was over almost as soon as it began.

In the warehouse of a family-owned clean diesel manufacturer in Sparks, Angle delivered a three-minute speech on her desire to permanently repeal the estate tax. When invited by the final speaker to stay and answer a few questions, she turned on her heel and rushed out a back door with a small cadre of staff members.

Reporters, including one who is six months pregnant, chased after her, calling out questions on unemployment benefits and other topics she has largely refused to address.

Brief though it may have been, the event was one of her first efforts to illustrate her philosophy that government’s role in the economy is largely to stay out of the way of the private sector.

Angle’s laissez-faire approach to the economy amid the worst recession in Nevada since the Great Depression has prompted repeated attacks from her opponent, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Citing Angle’s claim that it wouldn’t be her task as U.S. senator to create jobs, Reid argues Angle would merely stand by and watch as the ranks of Nevada’s unemployed grow.

Those attacks have gone largely unanswered as Angle has focused on fundraising and building a campaign organization.

Wednesday, Dick Patten, president of the American Family Business Institute, which organized the news conference, did some arguing on Angle’s behalf. Patten claimed that repealing the estate tax, a proposal Angle supports, could create 1.5 million jobs.

The estate tax, which has been dormant this year, is set to resume in 2011 at a 55 percent rate with a $1 million exemption. Congress is expected to reconsider the tax, with many Democrats, including Reid, favoring a continuation of the 2009 rate of 45 percent with a $3.5 million exemption.

Patten based his jobs claim on a 2009 study by former Congressional Budget Office economist Douglas Holtz-Eakin, who explored the disincentive the estate tax poses for entrepreneurs contemplating investing in their businesses. The study, paid for by the institute’s nonprofit arm, contends the tax motivates them to reduce the size of their estates by spending on leisure or other things rather than investing in a business that would be subject to the 55 percent tax.

The example at hand Wednesday was Peter Gunnerman, who owns Advanced Refining Concepts with his 82-year-old father and whose business was the site for the news conference.

Gunnerman said he would be forced to close the business and lay off 33 employees should his father die with the 55 percent estate tax in place. “If I’m hit with a 55 percent death tax, everything you see here disappears.”

When pressed, Gunnerman acknowledged he would seek “loopholes” such as gifting some of the estate to avoid the tax consequence and keep his business running. But he said loopholes aren’t good policy.

Proponents of the tax argue that the Holtz-Eakin study relied on faulty data, namely that most small businesses aren’t subject to the tax because of a sizable exemption and, therefore, these entrepreneurs aren’t under any disincentive to invest in their businesses. Rather, the tax targets the country’s wealthiest families, proponents argue.

With the $3.5 million exemption, a wealthy heir “would receiving more tax-free than the average worker earns in two lifetimes,” said Lee Farris, estate tax policy coordinator for United for a Fair Economy, which is lobbying Congress to reinstate the tax.

Reid spokesman Jon Summers called Angle a hypocrite for advocating a repeal of the tax and not offering a way to pay for it.

“You know what her approach would also do? It would add about $500 billion to the deficit,” Summers said. “Which is a pretty high price to pay just to give Paris Hilton a tax cut.”

During the event, Angle stated that the tax would cost 13,000 jobs in Nevada. “That is a true mistake to not go forward with something that can save at least 13,000 jobs here in Nevada when we are suffering under an unemployment rate of 14.2 percent,” she said.

Patten said the Holtz-Eakin study puts the Nevada jobs loss at 9,995 jobs. And Angle offered nothing to support her 13,000 figure.

She didn’t stick around long enough to field any follow-up questions about it.

“We’re running behind, I’m sorry,” her spokesman, Jerry Stacy, muttered as Angle stared at the ground, ignoring questions.

Then she was gone.

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