State House candidates address taxes, water rights at chamber breakfast

mowen@ledger-enquirer.comJuly 26, 2012 

Taxes, jobs and water were among topics discussed Thursday morning by five candidates for the state House of Representatives at the Greater Columbus Area Chamber of Commerce's monthly Eye Opener Breakfast at the Columbus Convention & Trade Center.

Incumbent District 133 Rep. Kip Smith and his opponent, John Pezold, and District 137 Rep. Debbie Buckner and her opponents, Travis Chambers and Ku'Wonna Ingram, answered questions before a packed house in the trade center's dining gallery.

Asked about what should be done with slightly increasing state revenues, Smith said the General Assembly should hold back on increasing spending, because the economy has yet to recover from the Great Recession.

"Personally, I think this economy is far from over, and I would hate to see us go out and spend money that we may not necessarily have six months from now," Smith said. "However, that being said, I think I would look at reinstating some of the cuts we had to make in education."

Pezold, asked about legislation that would cut income tax rates while increasing the number of people who pay income taxes, said he would support such a bill.

"All of us operate better when there's an incentive to do better. I think lowering the rates and broadening the base makes more people have skin in the game," Pezold said. "And if you have people who don't have skin in the game, there's no incentive to get out there and get involved."

In the House 137 race, Buckner was asked about legislation that would regulate use of water by Atlanta, particularly the Chattahoochee River.

Buckner said Atlanta relied more heavily on septic tank use, rather than sewers, than other large American cities, which greatly reduces the amount of water it returns to the river.

"I think we are going to have to continue to forge our alliances with other downstream communities all around the state, as we have done for years," she_ said. "But we're going to have to push real hard for the Metro Atlanta area to rely less heavily on septic tanks. That is a consumptive use of water."

Chambers, asked about legislation that would attract industry and jobs, said state government isn't doing enough to help small businesses.

"The state's budget is right at $18.3 billion, but for the department of Economic Development, only $40 million was appropriated," he said. "Now if you dig deeper, only $916,000 was allocated for small businesses and minority businesses. I think that's a problem. We need to appropriate more to those funds to create more opportunities."

Ingram was asked about how the state should respond to President Obama's federal health care initiative, which requires states to establish health insurance exchanges or be placed under a federal exchange.

"I agree that if Georgia can get itself together and to provide more exchanges in the health care field I think we need to do so," she said. "But if not, I think federal mandates are necessary and we need to comply. I think a healthy Georgia would be a better Georgia."

In each race, the winner of Tuesday's primary will be the next representative, as neither has opposition in the November election.

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