Saturday, September 27, 2008

Candidate Forum Report

The Friends of Historic East Campus (FOHEC) held a forum for the candidates running for the Michigan House of Representatives last Wednesday.

Legislative hopefuls state their case at East Campus
State House candidates differ on WMU funding

The candidates are:

60th district: Charles Ybema (R), Robert Jones (D) (incumbent)
61st district: Larry DeShazor (R), Julie Rogers (D)
63rd district: James "Jase" Bolger (R), Phyllis Smith (D) (did not attend)

All the candidates bemoaned the funding disparity between Western and the top three universities (UM, MSU, WSU). All of them promised to change it, and to work across party lines.

None of them pointed out that changing the disparity isn't very likely, because the partisans of the top three are working to preserve it. There are more of them, and they have more money and more clout. Ybema proposed the best plan, which is for money to follow the students rather than go directly to the universities.

Jones and Rogers both said that all universities should have increased budgets. Rogers bemoaned the fact that students are paying a higher percentage of tuition than taxpayers, when the reverse was once true. They both demanded more government funding to make college "affordable".

All the candidates support funding for remodeling of Sangren Hall (which was just passed by the legislature).

The Republicans all support making Michigan a right to work state, the democrats oppose it.

Rogers and DeShazor both endorsed the bus millage on the ballot in November that will raise taxes on the 61st district.

All the candidates had kind words for "alternative energy". Surprisingly, all the candidates endorsed slant drilling for oil under the Great Lakes.

Rogers endorsed creating a "district service office" in the 61st district, similar to the one in the 60th district.

On term limits, Ybema supported ending them, and Rogers, Jones, and DeShazor supported extending them. Bolger was sympathetic to criticisms of term limits, but also said that they have been unfairly blamed for the legislature's poor performance and that since they were passed by a vote of the people, they should only be changed that way.

All the candidates endorsed or were sympathetic to repealing the Michigan Business Tax (MBT) surcharge. Bolger and Deshazor were sympathetic to replacing the MBT with another tax, but did not endorse any specific plan. Ybema endorsed repealing the MBT entirely. This induced Rogers to claim that repealing the MBT would be disastrous because it would cause bridges to collapse like the I-35 bridge in Minnesota. (The cause of the collapse of that government-owned, government-inspected bridge remains unknown.)

Rogers denied supporting a tax increase to pay for all her plans for new spending. She said that she wanted "tax stability". When pressed where the money for her plans would come from, she said that Michigan's prisons could be more efficient. All the candidates endorsed saving money in the prison budget. Jones was sympathetic to sentencing that would let nonviolent offenders out of prison, while Bolger cautioned that letting felons out of prison would be dangerous. Ybema was sympathetic to privatising freeways and letting nonviolent drug offenders out of prison.

All the candidates wanted economic development. Most endorsed more higher education as the way to this. Ybema pointed out that economic growth requires capital, which is best attracted through economic freedom.

Ybema's libertarian economic views were the best on most questions, even if they were not popular with some in the audience.

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