Phoenix Senate candidates discussed health care, education and community engagement policies at the “Downtown Decides 2012” event near the Downtown campus Monday.
Republican Auggie Bartning and Rep. Katie Hobbs, D-Phoenix, are running for the 24th Legislative District Senate seat, which includes parts of central Phoenix and south Scottsdale.
Hobbs, who sponsored anti-bullying legislation and supported LGBTQ issues while representing the 15th Legislative District, said community involvement should be on the Legislature’s agenda.
“You have to have elected officials who are committed to bringing citizens together,” she said. “We encourage citizen participation at all levels.”
Bartning, a Phoenix native, said activities like church can bring communities together.
“This is my community,” he said. “This is the district I grew up in. There are ways to get citizens involved.”
Both candidates had differing opinions regarding the Obama administration’s Affordable Care Act.
Bartning said the Affordable Care Act has some good points, such as the inclusion of pre-existing conditions, but is not enough.
“It addresses the issue, but … it doesn’t fully resolve it,” he said. “We need a reform so health care can be accessible and affordable.”
Hobbs said the Affordable Care Act would cover more people and give them access to health insurance.
“(It) will let us put people back into (the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System),” she said. “It’s the right thing to do in our community.”
AHCCCS is the state’s Medicaid agency that offers health care programs to residents.
Hobbs said there should be a greater investment in early education because education is a key element in the future of young people.
“You have to start at that level,” she said. “We have to focus on this so that no matter where you go to school, you have the same opportunities.”
The community needs new initiatives to reduce the number of high school dropouts and make higher education more affordable, Hobbs said.
Bartning said he agrees with the support of early childhood education but is concerned with initiatives such as Proposition 204, a citizen initiative that would establish a permanent 1-cent sales tax for education and infrastructure.
“The key thing here is that (the proposition) will be permanent,” he said. “We are capable as a legislature to make sure the appropriate amount of money is going to education. We don’t need it.”
The candidates said creating jobs must be a priority.
Local job opportunities can happen with training and tax cuts, Bartning said.
“The more terrain we can have for the jobs that are available … the more local we can be,” he said.
Hobbs said education and health care investment are job creators.
The Legislature has to work with people that hire local workers, she said.
“This creates jobs in our communities,” Hobbs said. “But we also need accountability measures in tax cutting.”
Former ASU President Lattie F. Coor, who gave the keynote speech, said voting is crucial.
“Arizona has historically… had very little turnout in the polls,” he said. “We are in the bottom 10 states in registering and voting.”
Coor is the founder of the Center for the Future of Arizona, which released a Gallup Arizona Poll in 2009 regarding voting among residents.
“We found two very interesting things,” Coor said. “First … Arizonans love this place. In contrast, Arizonans are not well connected to one another.”
Journalism sophomore Jeffrey “Zander” Buel, who attended the debate, said talking about the issues is the first step.
“These are all things that are relevant and pressing,” he said. “Discussing them helps us identify the issues and come up with solutions, but I do have to wonder what kind of results this will produce.”
Voting is fundamental for young people, Buel said.
“Now more than ever it’s important,” he said. “We are the ones growing up in this environment, now we have the ability to do something to change it.”
The event was sponsored by student organizations ASU Downtown Alive! and ASU Voices of the Engaged Students.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org