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District 10 candidates stress economic recovery in West campus debate

Candidates for Arizona’s Legislative District 10 debated at the West campus Tuesday evening, each offering ideas and stressing the importance of improving the state’s economy.

District 10 covers most of the northwest Phoenix area.

Questions were submitted by audience members, and mainly focused on education and the economy.

The Clean Elections debate included state Senate incumbent Linda Gray, R-Phoenix, and her Democratic opponent Justin Johnson. Those present in the House race were incumbents Kimberly Yee, R-Phoenix, and James Weiers, R-Phoenix, and their Democratic opponents Aaron Jahneke and Jackie Thrasher.

The first topic to be addressed was the passage of Proposition 100 and protecting funding for education.

Proposition 100, a temporary sales tax benefitting education and public safety funding, was passed by Arizona voters in May.

Thrasher said while Proposition 100 was beneficial, but was only necessary because education had already been slighted for so long.

“At that point, the Legislature hadn’t done their job for a year and a half,” Thrasher said. “We can’t have businesses move here without good education funding.”

She said education had not been a priority for a long time in Arizona, and any attempts to change that would take a long time.

Weiers, however, said it is not enough to simply put more money into education.

“To simply throw money at an issue without any fundamental changes is not good,” Weiers said. “…you simply have a more expensive problem.”

Funding for schools was also addressed by Yee, who went on to say that it was equally important for schools and teachers to perform.

“It’s very important that we need to provide classroom funding,” Yee said. “We need to provide them with high academic standards that hold teachers and students accountable.”

She said achievement gaps between those with racial and economic differences need to be eliminated by setting higher standards for teachers and students.

“Make sure they have the best education regardless of where they live in Arizona,” Yee said.

Even though he supported Proposition 100, Jahneke said it wasn’t a definite source of income for the state.

“It’s based on sales tax, so it’s a moving target,” Jahneke said.

Johnson said the Legislature had many choices with Propostion 100, but gave voters only one.

“[The Legislature said] vote for Prop. 100 or we’ll cut education and public safety,” Johnson said. “Throwing a life vest to someone’s that’s overboard when you were the one to push them overboard…that’s not the answer.”

Making Arizona more business friendly as a way to help stimulate the economy was also brought up by audience members. The candidates all seemed to agree that reforms to regulations on businesses and the tax code would attract more businesses to Arizona.

Yee said businesses would be more attracted to Arizona if there was less “red tape” for them to deal with.

“We need to make sure there is more flexibility for small business owners,” she said.

Gray agreed, and said this would also help existing Arizona businesses.

“Most businesses in Arizona are [operated] by small business owners,” she said. “Reducing regulations…get small businesses back and operating in Arizona.”

Johnson also said tax reforms and less regulations would benefit the state’s economy, but emphasized jobs as an important point of focus.

“Our Arizona legislature has done nothing to impact job loss,” Johnson said.

Jahneke said there needs to be more predictable sources of state income and less reliance on sales tax.

The sales tax structure was unsustainable, said Thrasher in agreement with Jahneke, also pointing to business tax reform.

“Reduce the business property tax, but before that, we need to reform the tax structure so everybody pays their fare share,” she said.

Weiers, however, said the system cannot allow some to pay a certain amount in taxes, while others have to pay more.

District 9 resident Jim Yee, uncle of Kimberly, said he was surprised immigration wasn’t a central topic of the debate.

“The immigration issue was very weak,” he said. “It wasn’t addressed except in passing.”

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