Improving education marked the top priority for the two Democratic District 5 House candidates at Tuesday’s Clean Elections debate, while financial accountability marked the Republicans’ most urgent call.
Republican House candidate Brenda Barton said she wants to create a financial reporting system for taxing entities so people can see where the authorities spend money. The other Republican running for House, Chester Crandell, said he wants to balance the budget. He also suggested budgeting on a two-year basis, instead of annually, to reduce the amount of time spent on preparing the document.
Meanwhile, Democratic House candidates Bill Shumway and Prescott Winslow said they wanted to improve education, which they said would benefit the overall economy. Arizona lures many employers that offer only minimum wages, said Shumway. “That’s not good enough.”
The foursome faced off during a debate that also featured the two women running for Legislative District 5 Senate. Voters will fill two House seats in November. Former Rep. Bill Konopnicki was term-limited out and former Rep. Jack Brown retired.
To increase jobs, Barton and Crandell said Arizona should limit government involvement. Barton said, “Let’s stop penalizing success.”
Winslow said the state should attract more tourists — “It’s almost like free cash.” He, along with Shumway, returned to the notion that an improved educational system will ultimately improve the job market. Students can learn to operate renewable energy systems and education will create an educated workforce to entice employers, the Democrats said.
In answer to a question about whether Arizona should attract green jobs, Crandell opposed offering tax breaks to specific industries.
“If we’re going to give tax breaks to one, we should give tax breaks to all,” he said.
Barton said she liked the idea of bringing any job to Arizona. She then discussed which renewable sources she wants to develop in Arizona, naming green algae, which has shown promise as an alternative to oil, and biofuel.
“Clean coal is important to Arizona,” Barton added. “It provides cheap energy. It doesn’t matter if the wind blows or not, you can turn your light on.”
Candidates also discussed education. The Arizona Constitution says that college should be as nearly free as possible, and candidates’ ideas for lowering the cost ranged from not building prisons to ensuring educators don’t duplicate services.
Shumway proposed diverting funds to build prisons into the education system. Studies have shown that many inmates landed in jail after dropping out of high school.
Winslow said he approved of the state’s movement toward building smaller versions of the large state universities around Arizona. He also supported state financial aid for low-income students.
Barton didn’t answer the question, instead talking about how the state funds K-12 at reasonable levels, but that the money isn’t getting to the classroom.
Crandell said that many Arizona schools duplicate efforts — for instance both high schools and colleges teach vocational education. “We need to balance that out,” he said, and charge each level with a different educational goal.
As for health care, both Barton and Crandell opposed the federal legislation while the Democrats supported it.
“Private industry does a better job of providing a service or product,” said Barton.
She supported expanding the number of urgent care facilities around the state and allowing Arizonans to buy health care across state lines.
Crandell said Washington, D.C. politicians aren’t “close enough to my affairs to govern what I’m doing.” He supported lowering costs and ferreting out fraud.
Shumway wondered how well private industry provides the essential service of health care without desire of profit interfering with the quality of services.
Winslow pointed to programs like Medicare and Medicaid, and said, “We have government health care.” He also promoted the use of preventative services to encourage health.
In talking about immigration reform, Barton and Crandell both supported S.B. 1070, and said the state needs to secure its borders. “My emotion says put the Marines on the border. They know how to secure a border,” said Barton.
Crandell agreed. “We need to know who is coming into our country for whatever reason they’re here.”
Shumway said, “I think the first thing we’re going to have to do is find out who is in charge.” He added, “I think we’re going to find out that the federal government has dropped the ball on this.” S.B. 1070, he said, “didn’t do anything to stop people from coming across the border.”
Winslow supported forcing the federal government to secure the border. Most people here illegally, he added, came legally and overstayed their visas. He supported creating a temporary guest worker program and focusing border control efforts on criminals — “not people who want to come here and work.”