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State House candidates debate issues
A second round of debates for the two open District 24 house seats clearly established the most important topics of the upcoming general election.
The budget, public and veterans health care and establishing employer requirements and rights regarding migrant farm workers were key elements Thursday at Harvest Preparatory Academy, 350 E. 18th St. That mirrored the Sept. 18 Arizona Clean Elections Commission debates between Democratic incumbents Lynne Pancrazi and Theresa Ulmer and Republican challenger Russ Jones.
The primary issue is balancing a budget with a $2.2 billion deficit. Jones said that cutting spending was not the only answer, because the amount of the budget controlled by the legislature was limited. He said the state must attract investment, jobs and business to “grow ourselves out of this.”
Ulmer, who like Pancrazi just completed her first term, said Gov. Janet Napolitano’s 15-percent across-the-board cuts were not enough, nor were they effective. Like Jones, she vouched for incentives to attract new businesses. She disagreed with his statement that “while Rome is burning, (the legislature) is fiddling.” Ulmer said times were bad, but that she would not “sit there and say Rome was falling.” She said different economists see things differently, and that the first step was to agree on numbers. Proper assessment of the situation is better, she said, than quick action.
“When the economy is bad, the need for services raises,” Ulmer said. “So it’s tough.”
Pancrazi’s plan calls for reducing funding to schools with falling enrollment. The schools don’t need the money, so it could be reapplied to different areas of the budget. She said 39,000 state employee positions have been eliminated through attrition or not being filled, and that state employees could take a pay cut.
Concerning employer sanctions against businesses which hire illegally, Pancrazi pointed to an initiative on the ballot to help employers who follow rules while also tightening sanctions. She urged voters to support Proposition 202, which she said makes all employers place work-related issues in writing.
Ulmer said she ran six bills to correct the comprehensive immigration act passed in legislature, but none went through despite bipartisan support. She said the key was to get all parties involved at the table to hash out any issues and fix a bill before it becomes law.
Jones, who served in the state legislature from 2004-06, encouraged support for Proposition 202 as well and held that there was a “rule of unintended consequences when you pass complex legislation.” The comprehensive immigration act passed had multiple problems, he said, and Proposition 202 will aid solutions to support employers who obey all laws and complete proper paperwork.
The three candidates were unanimous on veterans health care, saying that there needs to be increased and better services. Ulmer’s plan was a public-private partnership, perhaps with local hospitals. The hospitals, she said, could get reasonable reimbursement for providing services to veterans.
Jones, a veteran, wants an additional veterans care facility in the western portions of Arizona to serve Colorado River communities. His second solution was more mobile care clinics to combat the travel times to Phoenix or Tucson, the only cities currently with veterans hospitals. Pancrazi said both were correct, and she would support any aid for veterans.
Regarding military installations and keeping the large base numbers for Yuma, Pancrazi said she passed legislation making sure that school districts from state-to-state were able to coordinate curriculums so students would not lose credits if military parents were transferred. Ulmer said private and public encroachment toward military bases and ranges was the primary concern, and that the state needs to make sure it is in a supportive role.
Jones said military spending in Arizona is “huge, and exceeds agriculture and other industries statewide.” He said he was concerned when legislature swept lots of accounts and funds for the military off budget books. He did not believe building homes on private lands that border the Barry Goldwater Range was an intelligent idea.
All three agreed on incentivizing new businesses supporting alternative energy.
Kretzer allowed to speak despite Aguirre's absence
Jack Krezter, Green Party candidate for District 24’s state senate seat, also spoke at the forum. Amanda Aguirre, Democratic incumbent senator, could not attend, so Kretzer was limited to a five-minute opening statement and a question-and-answer session.
Kretzer said he listened to state budget hearings Wednesday in Phoenix.
“The state of Arizona is in big trouble,” said Kretzer, who emphasized that he worked his entire life in government. “The state has spent more money than it has. At the end of the year, the budget won’t be balanced and next year it will be even worse. You can’t spend dollars you don’t have. Part of the money the state gets for building roads and maintaining roads is down because you and I aren’t driving as much or buying as much gas. The state lottery is down. A lot of people in Yuma are just trying to survive. And all the problems of the state have been created and sustained by Democrats and Republicans.
“You can’t have everything everybody wants. You have to cut everywhere. There are basic services you must provide. Some things are locked in. ... One of the problems is right now the city wants to spend $100 million for a new arena. I can tell you I will be your representative so you know what the state is doing. Green represents accountability.”