Senate LD 11 candidates toe party lines on key issues
By Christina Sampson
State Senate District 11 candidates Democrat Jo Holt and incumbent Republican Sen. Al Melvin clashed Saturday during a candidate forum.
When it comes to storing nuclear waste in Arizona, Holt said she “was completely opposed to it” and instead supported investing state resources into renewable energy.
Melvin advocated recycling nuclear material and using the cash the state received to do so — $50,000 per ton of waste, at 2 tons per years — to subsidize education funding.
Funding education was another point of contention in which lines were clearly drawn.
Holt jabbed at Melvin’s claim that the state spends $9,300 per student per year, pointing out that figure included federal funding for which, as a state senator, Melvin could not vote on.
“And that federal funding got quite a boost because that includes the Obama stimulus program,” Holt said.
Speaking of state funding for K-12 education, Holt said it had decreased by 20 percent.
“It’s difficult to imagine improving a system, of any sort of complexity, by cutting its budget by one-fifth,” Holt said.
Melvin defended his claim, conceding that the $9,000 per student figure included federal funds but saying, “We have protected per pupil funding.”
“We’ve never let it go below $9,000,” Melvin said. “And to do that, we mortgaged capital buildings in Phoenix …. We moved heaven and earth to protect funding at that level.”
Melvin said the key to education funding was “maximum school choice” for parents and touted the state’s open enrollment policy that allows students to attend nondistrict schools and charter schools.
In contrast, Holt said she stood for “protecting traditional K-12 education.”
The candidates disagreed on the role state government should play in immigration.
Both agreed the federal government has failed Arizona. Melvin said the federal government has not protected Arizonans from undocumented immigrants and said SB 1070 “was a step in the right direction.”
“The state has to step up to the plate and secure the border where the federal government has failed miserably,” Melvin said.
Holt said the role of the state went only as far as public safety for the residents, and illegal immigration is a federal responsibility.
“The state of Arizona is responsible for the safety of its citizens,” Holt said. “Anyone living on or near the border should feel completely at home on their own property and should feel safe on their own property.”
“But that is the limit of what the state should be doing,” Holt said.When asked about Proposition 204, which would make a temporary 1-cent sales tax permanent, Melvin called the tax and “abomination” and “job killer.”
“The last thing Arizona needs is a tax increase during this recession,” he said.
Holt said she supported it.
“It will go to education and it will go to roads,” Holt said. “It is a desperate measure, but these are desperate times for public education.”
She said a better school system would attract businesses to the state and create jobs.
Finally, when it came to the Affordable Care Act, Holt said she supports instituting insurance exchanges and Melvin said, should Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney win, the act would be “dismantled to the ground.”
The forum was co-hosted by InMaricopa.com and the Maricopa Monitor.