Two of the four candidates running for the two Arizona House of Representatives seats for Legislative District 11 squared off at the InMaricopa.com General Election Town Hall on Saturday. Present at the event were Col. Hollace Lyon (ret.), a Democrat, and Constable Bret Roberts, a Republican.
Not present were incumbent Rep. Mark Finchem, a Republican, and candidate Marcela Quiroz, a Democrat.
Several of the questions asked in the debate related to energy policy and Proposition 127, which would require private Arizona power utilities to produce 50 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2030.
It was a hot-button issue throughout the day, and Lyon acknowledged it was a tough one for her. Though she supports the proposition, she expressed some concerns about the inflexibility of the measure. She said that Arizona Public Service Electric Company (APS), makes roughly $400 million in profits annually and the CEO has an annual salary of $15 million. She advocated for the Arizona Corporate Commission to ensure that some of the increased costs of compliance will come out of the company’s profits, rather than passed entirely to ratepayers.
Roberts opposes Proposition 127, stating he believed it would increase individual ratepayers costs by $1,000 a year. He said other countries, such as Canada, China and Japan, were divesting from renewable energy.
“The solar industry is kind of becoming a fossil,” Roberts said.
Lyon expressed doubt over these claims. If what Roberts said about the shift in energy policy in other countries is accurate, she saw it as an opportunity to fill the void.
The candidates sparred over a number of issues, such as whether Arizona should take over more federal lands within the state. Roberts was for this and Lyon opposed. Roberts said that only 16 to 17 percent of lands within the state were taxable, while states such as New Jersey are able to tax 97 percent of their land.
“We’re at a deficit before we even start,” Roberts said.
Lyon strongly disagreed, sarcastically asking what could go wrong if the state did take over federal lands, noting the Wallow Fire in 2011 cost the federal government $109 million, while the entire budget for firefighting and suppression in Arizona was only between $5 million and $10 million annually.
“One good fire and we would just wipe out the Arizona budget,” Lyon said.
The two candidates also disagreed over tax policy. Lyon attacked what she described as $13.7 billion in tax loopholes, which she believed should be reexamined to see if they generate a sufficient return on investment to offset the loss in revenue. She also said that 74 percent of corporations in Arizona paid $50 or less annually in taxes to the state. Roberts disagreed with both points.
“This tax loophole thing is just a fallacy,” he said.
Roberts preferred the term tax policy to tax loopholes. He also argued that corporations paying such low taxes generated revenue for the state by bringing new jobs and increased economic activity.
Both candidates agreed they had strong differences in opinion and approaches.