LAS VEGAS — Down in the polls, Democrat Rory Reid could always boast that at least he was the only Nevada gubernatorial candidate with a plan to fix the state's $3 billion budget gap.
Rival Republican Brian Sandoval set out to destroy that claim in the second debate of the race Thursday, writing off Reid's budget numbers as unrealistic and disingenuous in an hourlong discussion where Sandoval provided few answers about his own economic solutions.
"You've got to be straight to the people of Nevada," Sandoval said. "It doesn't add up."
But Reid, the son of Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid, said it was unfair of Sandoval to cut down Reid's plan while refusing to offer his own solutions in the next breath.
"The problem with this debate is that it is so one-sided because Brian doesn't have a plan," he said.
The candidates discussed public employees' retirement plans, Medicaid, how to diversify the economy, immigration reform, water issues and health care during the showdown held at a local PBS studio in Las Vegas. The program was broadcast in English and Spanish.
Sandoval, who is Hispanic, said he supports Arizona's hardline immigration law but has been told by law enforcement officials that it is not needed in Nevada, which tops the nation in unemployed and illegal workers.
Reid said copycat laws would simply move immigration problems into other states and called for comprehensive immigration reform at the federal level.
Sandoval said the federal health care reform law would overwhelm the state's limited coffers. Reid supports the law, but also conceded that it could hurt the state fiscally.
Both candidates said they would not raise taxes.
Sandoval said state funding needs to return to 2007 levels, but would not detail how much he would cut from what departments when pressed by reporters after the debate.
Reid said he would eliminate multiple state departments and reduce other departments' funding. For example, he has called for a 33 percent cut $150 million in the state's Corrections Department.
A recent poll showed Sandoval favored over Reid, 51 percent to 37 percent.
Reid has tried to close the gap by portraying Sandoval as an inexperienced, empty suit beholden to lobbyists.
"If he doesn't have the strength to stand up for them, how will he ever stand up for you?" Reid said.
Reid has also sought to link Sandoval to Gov. Jim Gibbons, Nevada's unpopular governor who lost to Sandoval in the Republican primary.
Sandoval, meanwhile, has dismissed Reid as a tax-happy Democrat who has made empty promises to protect public education.
"If you are telling everybody what they want to hear you are lying to somebody," Sandoval said.
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