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State House Candidates Talk Jobs, Education and Taxes During Forum Tuesday

The four Republicans and one Democrat running for the Michigan House of Representatives in the 40th District met for a meet-the-candidates forum hosted by the League of Women Voters.

Education, Michigan's personal property tax and job creation were among the topics discussed Tuesday night at a candidate forum for those running for the Michigan House of Representatives in the 40th District.

The forum was hosted by the League of Women Voters at Birmingham's and featured all five candidates, including the four candidates running for the Republican nomination and one Democrat. All five names will be on the ballot during the Aug. 7 primary.

Running for the State House in the 40th District are Republicans , , and as well as Democrat .

All five are looking to replace outgoing State Rep. Chuck Moss (R-Birmingham), who has to vacate his seat this year due to term limits. Michigan's new 40th District — — is composed of Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Bloomfield Township and a portion of West Bloomfield.

League of Women Voters moderator Judy Bateman posed more than a dozen questions to the five candidates Tuesday night, many of which were submitted by an audience of nearly 40.

From open carry laws to a tuition tax credit for Michigan students, check out what those looking to represent Birmingham, Bloomfield and West Bloomfield in Lansing had to say:

How do you feel about requiring health insurance carriers to cover autism?

While Bateman noted that the 40th District's current representative, Rep. Moss, voted no on this issue earlier this year, four out of the five candidates said that they would have voted yes.

"The investment of early care is a good economic move," said Potts while Lawrence said diagnosing autism as early as possible helps schools and children function better.

Wolkinson was the only candidate to say he would vote no. While acknowledging the issue was highly-charged and oftentimes emotional, he stressed there is no evidence that mandated treatments work.

"Imposing those extra costs ... is a really bad idea," Wolkinson said.

What do you think of revisiting Michigan's open carry laws in light of ?

All candidates began their responses by acknowledging citizens' Second Amendment rights, noting it is legal to openly carry firearms in Michigan. However, Potts, Lawrence, McCready and Coston said limitations to this law are important, stressing there are places where weapons aren't necessary, such as libraries and school campuses.

"People called it the wild west for a reason, it was wild," said Coston. "Thank goodness it's over."

Wolkinson, meanwhile, noted that revising Michigan's open carry law is "a solution in search of a problem," and that during time he spent in Israel, he actually felt safer seeing people with weapons.

What do you think of the Troy transit center and do you support the SMART millage?

While many of the candidates avoided answering how they felt about the Troy transit center — saying that issue was outside the 40th District — nearly all discussed the importance of regional transportation.

"Public transportation is something government should support," Lawrence said, with Coston adding that he supports any system that creates jobs.

"(Public transportation) is for jobs and it's for kids getting to school," Coston said.

Wolkinson said while he doesn't know if he'll support the SMART millage, he will not support the development of government bureaucracy to bail out a failing system.

How will you advocate for education? Do you support a tuition tax credit?

While all five candidates said they support competition in Michigan's public schools, McCready went a step further, saying he also supports removing the state cap on the number of charter schools.

"It's important that we put money into the classroom," McCready added. "We can't keep taking out."

Lawrence, who is in his third term with the Birmingham Board of Education, said education is key to his campaign. What is perhaps most important, he said, is the unfunded liability of the state's pension fund for teachers and school administrators. The state is losing millions of dollars to this year every year, Lawrence said.

"Without that, we're going nowhere," Lawrence said.

Potts said lawmakers have to consider the realities of Michigan's economy when thinking about how to fund education, urging for more accountability and competition.

Do you support Gov. Snyder's bridge to Canada?

McCready, Lawrence and Coston said they supported the idea behind the bridge, noting that if Michigan taxpayer money wasn't used, the project could create hundreds of jobs.

"The bridge ... is just one piece of the puzzle," Lawrence said. "This will help create a logistical hub in the Detroit area. (It's a) good first step to really build an economic engine."

However, Wolkinson and Potts admitted to some wariness of the project, questioning whether the Canadian government will really pay as much as they've promised.

"I don't believe in a thing like a free lunch," Wolkinson said.

Do you support the DIA millage?

Every candidate said they supported the (DIA) — all except for Wolkinson.

While Wolkinson said he's sure the millage will pass, especially given its popularity, he said he's against creating new sources of government spending.

The DIA is a valuable institution, Wolkinson said, "but that doesn't mean we have to raise taxes to support it."

What do you think of Gov. Snyder's proposal to phase out the personal property tax?

All four Republican candidates said Michigan's personal property tax was a poor tax — Wolkinson called it an "absolute horrendous tax." McCready said the tax prevents businesses from coming to Michigan while Lawrence said it's difficult to collect and regulate.

Potts said while he supports the gradual phasing out of the tax, he doesn't think it keeps businesses away and noted the income it provides for small communities is important.

Coston, meanwhile, came down in favor of the tax. "A tax is what makes government run," he said. "It makes government more accountable and it makes businesses more accountable."

Do you think voters should have to show ID at the polls?

All four Republican candidates said they believed in showing identification at the polls, with Potts stressing that the process isn't invasive. Wolkinson said requiring ID helps prevent an even-bigger problem: voter fraud.

While Lawrence acknowledged the state should find ways to make voting easier for citizens, Coston went a step further: "We should have voter education, not voter suppression."

Do you support a health insurance exchange, as supported by Gov. Snyder?

While all four Republicans said they oppose President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, most were in support of setting up a statewide health insurance exchange. The Affordable Care Act is law, they said, and it's good to start moving with an exchange early.

Coston said he also supports the "Republican ideal" of a health care exchange, noting it benefits both businesses and citizens.

What do you think of Michigan's new laws regarding sale of fireworks?

While most candidates noted that more fireworks isn't necessarily a good thing, most said they were ambivalant about additional regulations.

Potts, however, said he was concerned most with local government when it came to the new fireworks law. There's little money going to local police, Potts said — the ones who actually have to monitor the uptick in fireworks usage.

"The only people who make money are the fireworks people," Potts said. "I like personal freedom but wonder if there's a sacrifice (here) for the people."

Do you support inhibiting a woman's reproductive rights?

Most candidates kept their answers short to this question, with Coston being the only one to say Tuesday night he was pro-choice. McCready, Potts and Wolkinson said they were pro-life. While Lawrence didn't say where he stood at the forum, he told Patch afterward he is pro-choice.

How do you think Michigan should pay for its roads, sewers and water mains?

Potts said that the current formula used to determine road funding does not look at usage, making southeastern Michigan's roads some of the worst in the state.

Most candidates agreed with Potts' assertion that the formula has to change, with Wolkinson adding that there are various special interests that need to be addressed before real money can be saved on infrastructure.

Coston, meanwhile, noted that all taxpayers have to make sacrifices when it comes to making government work for them. "Let's work together to get the results we deserve," he said.

How would you bring new jobs to Michigan?

Wolkinson said it is the government's responsibility not to necessarily create jobs, but to create an environment where businesses can compete and therefore hire Michigan's unemployed and young people, many of whom, he noted, are leaving the state to find jobs elsewhere.

Lawrence said bringing more businesses to Michigan will involve eliminating several taxes and cleaning up the tax code, though quality of life may be even more important.

"What brings jobs to a place is the quality of life," Lawrence said. "If we keep the education system as good as it can be, it's a virtuous cycle and it begins with education."

Correction: An earlier verision of this article noted that all four Republicans said they were pro-life. Robert Lawrence did not answer the question and later told Patch he is pro-choice.

Yolanda Jefferson July 25, 2012 at 11:11 AM
Was looking forward to hear more on reproductive rights and how they would handle my vagina.
Linda P July 25, 2012 at 12:39 PM
After reading the above, Wolkinson is the man to vote for. Time for Potts to turn over his TV show to Wolkinson.
Charles Gaba July 25, 2012 at 02:01 PM
Yolanda: The answers were short, but pretty clear: All 4 Republicans believe that your body belongs to the state. The Democrat believes that your body belongs to you.
David Wolkinson July 25, 2012 at 02:10 PM
Great article! Thank you for posting this to educate the voters. I hope to earn their vote on August 7th to make Michigan the best place in the world to do business and keep jobs here to give our young people a chance to stay!
Deborah Jankowski July 25, 2012 at 02:15 PM
Charles, that's flat out untrue.
Mike McCready July 25, 2012 at 02:30 PM
Thank you to the League of Women Voters for hosting last night’s forum. I enjoyed speaking with the voters and the moderators about the issues concerning the 40th district. If you would like to learn more about me you can visit my website www.mccreadyforstaterep.com.
Darlene Hemmings July 25, 2012 at 02:45 PM
Based on last night's forum, David Wolkinson seemed to be the only candidate opposed to the implementation of health care exchanges and the ACA. That earns my vote!
Wolkinson Supporter July 25, 2012 at 03:51 PM
Wolkinson has proposed eliminating the Corporate Income Tax. Wolkinson has proposed to make Michigan a Right to Work state. Wolkinson has proposed to phase out the state earned income tax credit. Wolkinson has proposed eliminating the Personal Property Tax on businesses. Where are you getting that Potts is the only one to talk about legislative ideas?
Mark Kapel July 25, 2012 at 06:48 PM
I am not interested in proposals or ideas. That's how we got Obama. Great Talker. No substance.Like Hillary said she and McClain would take to Washington years of experience. Obama would take a speech he wrote five years ago. I will vote for McCready, who was also endorsed by the Free Press. In Bloomfield Hills as Commissioner and Mayor he balanced budget and got a Great Library for $180,000 not .$500,000 per year With Cities going bankrupt nation wide McCready's Municipal experience is a decided plus in the state legislature.
David Potts July 25, 2012 at 07:12 PM
I thought the several opinions and observations of the candidates responding to audience questions provided clear distinction betweern the dandidates and were of value to the live audience and the TV audience. I am the only candidate with legislative experience having worked on the Oakland County budget of more the $750,000,000 for 6 years...each year a balanced budget without any tax increases. During that time i have voluntarily taken three pay cuts. I do not turn in mileage or travel expenses...any seminars or travel for commission business is paid from my pocket. One candidate has no experience of any kind and displays a total lack of community involvement, while the others have public service in their records. While other canndidates talk about what they will do about the state budgets and the state economy, i have an actual track record of dealing with and developing budgets that have balanced wih no tax increases EACH YEAR OF MY SERVICE as commissioner. A candidate should be judged by his/her record...action speaks louder than words and it would seem to be easy to chose between me and the others...some of who are fine people who love their families as I do mine...but the question is are any of them ready and able to do the job and have the experience to do it well? I submit I am that person and worthy of your support...just check all our records and see who produces and who talks and talks but has little to show to the voters. Dave Potts Commisssioner/Candidate
Jared Rosenbaum July 25, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Mr. Potts, respectfully, you were asleep through 4/5 of the forum last night.
Fair July 26, 2012 at 12:17 AM
Jared, that simply is not true. I was there and no one was sleeping. Thank you LWV for offering the public a chance to get to know the cadidates. I went in undecided and left decided. I will be voting for Mr. Potts. I found him to be extremely bright, articulate, thoughtful and knowledgable about all of the issues. I like his proven record and I think this experience will be beneficial for this job.
Daniel JK July 26, 2012 at 12:22 AM
Mr. Wolkinson, as a constituent of the office you are seeking, I am inclined to ask if you will continue being a perennial candidate should you lose this primary. This is an honest-to-goodness question as records from the Clerk's office show that you have run unsuccessfully in two previous republican primaries. I feel as if your declaration that you have a desire to serve the community- is an empty platitude- as half of the district you are running to represent was never in the old district you have run in two times prior. So, yes, this is a serious question albeit with an incredible backhand to it. An answer is appreciated.
Jared Rosenbaum July 26, 2012 at 02:01 AM
He was asleep between each question. Here is proof: https://p.twimg.com/AynLw9PCcAAeUvu.jpg:large I do not work for Wolkinson or any of the candidates in the race. I do, however, volunteer on another local republican campaign. I was at the forum as a citizen and I snagged a bunch of pictures of Potts sleeping, which I found atrociously disrespectful to the other 4 candidates at the table.
Mike McCready July 26, 2012 at 12:15 PM
Mark, thank you for your support! You are correct, after all candidates submitted responses to the Free Press they did endorse me. Here is the link for others to verify http://on.freep.com/MZb8Es if they wish. Thanks again to the LWV.
Neal Charness July 26, 2012 at 01:47 PM
After the "leadership" efforts in the house in stifling members for disagreeing with their agenda no Republican should be elected. They're so busy with their anti tax for any reason agenda that they're killing our schools/future. We're very fortunate to be in good school districts but look what's happening.
Birmingham Resident July 28, 2012 at 11:02 PM
I thought that all five candidates did a very nice job Tuesday evening at the LWV. As a voter, I feel fortunate to have five highly talented individuals to choose from. That said, I thought that Rob Lawrence was articulate, on point, and had a slight edge Tuesday evening.

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