Candidates at odds on health care, schools

 

Candidates at odds on health care, schools

 

Date: October 21, 2010
by: Robin Roy | City Editor

 
 

Republican Ray Pilon hopes to take advantage of some of the anti-Democrat feelings that are centered on Washington in his pursuit of the Florida House District 69 seat.

However, incumbent Keith Fitzgerald touts his record of working well with Republicans, co-sponsoring bills with members of the opposing party and getting his own bills passed in a GOP-majority Legislature.

Keith Fitzgerald
(Democrat)

Age: 53
Hometown: Sarasota
Family: Married with two children
Education: Bachelor’s degrees in political science and psychology from University of Louisville and Ph.D. from Indiana University
Career: Associate professor of political science at New College of Florida

Why are you the best candidate?
I promised when I ran that I would be an independent voice in the Legislature who would bring professionalism, integrity, honesty and expertise to the job. I also promised that I would conduct myself with civility and work to bridge the divide between the parties. I have lived up to that promise, and because I have, I have distinguished myself from the crowd in Tallahassee. I have also stood up for our community by fighting against oil drilling within 10 miles of our beaches, working for alternative energy jobs, affordable housing, improved mental health, arts funding and high-quality education. I have proven myself as one who is willing to take on special interests and to think for myself in pursuit of the common good of the people of Florida.

What specific steps will you take to bring jobs to your district?
The key step that the Legislature can take to aid job creation is to create the right environment for job creation. I have taken several steps in this regard. I have promoted the development of domestic markets for alternative energy, for example, by being the prime author of net metering for Florida; and I am a proponent of the PACE bill and the creation of the EZ Zone in Sarasota. These two pieces of legislation will help our area be on the forefront of alternative energy. I have supported creating a favorable tax environment. I was one of the early sponsors of the extended sales-tax holiday. I will be sponsoring legislation to adopt more favorable depreciation allowances on capital as a way of encouraging high-value added investment here in Florida. I am also working on new strategies for Florida to aid in the formation of venture capital and economic development.

Aside from job creation, what specific things do you plan to do for your district?
I have been a strong advocate for arts funding in the budget process. I have aided our local mental-health providers in their effort to serve clients with both mental-health and substance-abuse problems. I have passed legislation to help Habitat for Humanity and the Community Land Trust in their efforts to enable people to get into housing. I have supported our local schools by working with others in the delegation to protect our outstanding gifted programs when they were under attack, and I have helped our local institutions of higher learning in the budget process.

How would you make homeowners insurance more available and more affordable?
One approach that should be explored is to see if we could move away from the Citizens insurance model. With Citizens, the government competes supposedly as an insurer of last resort but increasingly is the only viable option for many consumers. The state could see if it is viable to self-insure for windstorm and return all other insurance to the private market.

What is your stance on oil drilling in state waters?
I have consistently opposed drilling within the territorial waters of Florida. I led the opposition to this legislation in the House and called for the special session to consider giving voters the option to make a ban on near-shore drilling permanent. I filed the joint resolution to give people that choice.

The state’s latest long-range financial outlook includes lower revenue expectations for the next three years. How would you propose the Legislature deal with that slower-than-expected growth?
First, we need to comprehensively review government spending practices to streamline and eliminate waste. We need to continue the freeze hiring and salary increases. We need to consider closing tax loopholes enjoyed by large, national and multinational corporations. We also need to be far more aggressive about drawing down our fair share of federal dollars. The most important step we can do to address this problem is accelerate job growth.

Are Florida’s public schools adequately funded? Why?
No. Although higher funding is no guarantee of better performance, adequate funding is a necessary condition for good performance. Increasing spending on education is unlikely to be possible in the short term, so what we should be doing is thoroughly studying how to get the most bang for the buck when revenues become available.

If the class-size amendment fails in November, how would you propose to pay the $354 million to meet mandatory class-size requirements?
The state can quickly take two measures. First, change the statutes that implement the class-size amendment immediately, which would provide school districts with greater spending flexibility and largely solve the problem. And, second, the state should do more to provide local school boards with funding.

Do you support continuing legal action against the federal government for its mandatory health-care plan?
No. This is a waste of time and money.


Ray Pilon
(Republican)

Age: 65
Hometown: Lake Orion, Mich.
Family: Married with two children and two grandchildren
Education: Social services and sociology degree from Northern Michigan University
Career: Former law-enforcement officer, former cable company vice president, former Sarasota County commissioner and government liaison for Peace River Manasota Regional Water Supply Authority

Why are you the best candidate?
Local government experience. (Being) a resident since the early 1970s gives me a better understanding of the area’s needs. Continual community involvement. Better connection to the community. In general, more tools in the toolbox.

What specific steps will you take to bring jobs to your district?
Create state policy that reduces duplicative business regulations. Create tax incentives based on results for business to grow and for new business to be attracted to the area to make us competitive with other states. Work on educational standards and accountability that produces a workforce more in tune with the needs of the 21st century job market. Policy that gets government out of the way and allows competition and free-market principles to create jobs.

Aside from job creation, what specific things do you plan to do for your district?
I want to work on developing better relationships between local and state governments that identify core responsibilities of each, so they don’t conflict or duplicate efforts. Hopefully these efforts will reduce unfunded mandates. In addition, I want to work with local governments to support our arts community, tourism and efforts to bring new, diverse business to our area.

How would you make homeowners insurance more available and more affordable?
I believe competition will bring prices down. We have to take a look at the many mandates the state placed on insurance companies that want to do business in the state and remove those that impair competition. At the same time, insurance companies that we encourage to do business here must be solvent and able to meet their claims responsibilities. We also need to get back to making Citizens Insurance the company of last resort and not a competitor to private business. Opening up that marketplace to competition should reduce the need for Citizens Insurance to be a primary provider.

What is your stance on oil drilling in state waters?
I stand by the current law that does not allow drilling in Florida waters. The most pressing issue is that Florida accepts all the risk and none of the revenue benefit from existing and future wells that exist in other states’ waters in the Gulf of Mexico. As a state we must be a strong voice to our Congressional delegation to reverse that situation and ensure that we are provided with dedicated oil revenues to be used as insurance against any future mishaps. We are also at risk with the proposed drilling by Cuba so close to our shores and must lobby Congress on this issue.

The state’s latest long-range financial outlook includes lower revenue expectations for the next three years. How would you propose the Legislature deal with that slower-than-expected growth?
State government must continue to be more efficient and effective to provide the best return on the taxpayer dollar investment. Specifically, we have to reduce red tape, combine agency services and look at private sector provision of services if they are less expensive and more efficient. We have to stick to core responsibilities and not try to be all things to all people.

Are Florida’s public schools adequately funded? Why?
Schools should be funded to the level that produces results. The real question is as much about where and how it is spent as it is the amount. That means providing quality teachers, facilities and tools to get the job done. The cost-to-benefit ratio will be proven with higher graduation rates, higher grades and more productive students and teachers. However, to date, money doesn’t seem to be the best litmus test for accomplishment. Throwing more money at something does not always produce the desired result. We have to put students first and gear our financial policies toward them. Once we do that, we can address how much money it will take and the best places to put those resources. 
 
If the class-size amendment fails in November, how would you propose to pay the $354 million to meet mandatory class-size requirements?
The Legislature will be forced to reduce funding in other critical-needs areas to make up the shortfall resulting in all areas suffering.

Do you support continuing legal action against the federal government for its mandatory health-care plan?
Yes!

Contact Robin Roy at rroy@yourobserver.com.



 

 

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