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Wed, March 20

Legislative candidates talk growth, health care

PRESCOTT – Candidates for District 1 legislative seats answered questions from Yavapai College staff about education, health care and growth management Tuesday.

But most of them were stumped about whether they support the college's $69.5 million bond issue proposal for new buildings and major remodeling, saying they need to research it more. Only Democratic Senate candidate Dawn Knight, a retired Prescott schoolteacher, said she supported it. Republican House candidate Caleb Soptelean of Yarnell said if he had to decide today, he'd also support it.

Knight is challenging Sen. Ken Bennett, R-Prescott, who served seven years on the State Board of Education and attended Yavapai College.

Other House candidates at the forum were Democrat Henry Camarot, a Prescott attorney; incumbent Rep. Barbara Blewster, R-Dewey, who noted she home- schooled her children; and Republican Lucy Mason of Prescott, a former Prescott City Council member also seeking one of the two House seats.

Rep. Linda Binder, R-Lake Havasu City, didn't attend the afternoon forum at the college's Performance Hall in Prescott. Blewster left halfway through the two-hour forum.

Several questions centered on ballot issues. The only proposition that all candidates either clearly opposed or supported was Proposition 106.

It would create an independent commission that would draw new legislative and congressional districts, instead of the state Legislature doing the job.

Knight, Camarot and Soptelean support Proposition 106. Bennett and Mason oppose it, questioning whether the commission itself would be more impartial than the Legislature. Blewster already had left the forum when that question arose.

Following are some of the other questions and candidate answers. The answers are sometimes paraphrased for clarity and brevity.

What action will you take to get health care to the poor?

Soptelean – I support both ballot initiatives to expand health care programs, and HMO incentives for rural health care.

Mason – I support both ballot initiatives, too, and I'll try to address these health care issues. It's hard for seniors to afford necessary prescriptions.

Blewster – The more we seem to correct health care problems, the more HMOs pull out of Arizona. Let free enterprise operate. I don't want more socialized medicine, or Hillary Clinton's health care programs in schools. Health care is a parental responsibility.

Camarot – Approval of Proposition 200, called Healthy Children, Healthy Families, is critical. Another revenue source for expanded health care is the state's tobacco tax, not just its tobacco settlement money. The tax brings in $100 million annually.

Bennett – We've got to watch out for the size of government at the federal, state and local level. The average person's wages from Jan. 1 to June 13 of each year go just to taxes, so it's no wonder many can't afford health care. We should use some of the tobacco settlement money for health care, and also make health care premiums deductible for individuals like they are for businesses.

Knight – The two health care propositions, 200 and 204, are crucial. Arizona lost $76 million in Kids Care money because the Legislature wouldn't let schools give out information about the program.

What legislation would you introduce or support to manage population growth?

Camarot – I support both Proposition 202, Citizens for Growth Management, and Proposition 100 that would create a new category of trust land, the Arizona Stewardship Reserve, although I have a problem with Proposition 100's provision about auctions.

Blewster – I wouldn't support or initiate any legislation. This is a free land; I moved here, and others should be able to move here also. Let the market control water. Only 13 percent of Arizona is private land. I'm for more land going into private hands. I oppose both growth management propositions.

Mason – We need to address growth, it's so explosive. But we need to look for ways to do it without interfering with private land rights.

Soptelean – This is one of the major issues Arizona faces. I support private property rights. The Citizens Growth Management initiative (Prop. 202) goes too far. I like the Growing Smarter Proposition 100, except it only sets aside 3 percent of the state trust lands for open space; we need to set aside at least 5 or 6 percent, so I'll vote against it. The deserts and semi-deserts of Arizona can't support this kind of population growth.

Knight – People come to Arizona for its open space and beauty, so we need to preserve that. I support the Citizens Growth Management Initiative. For a long time, big developers haven't paid their share of growth impacts.

Bennett – I support local control versus legislative control, and I'm active in water-use issues. Arizona used less water in 1990 than it did in 1953, because of the drop in agricultural use, but we still need to keep an eye on water supplies.


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