Jones, White state positions, on ballot Tuesday

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 29, 2010

There is only one local race on the ballot in Tuesday’s primary elections – the Republican nomination for House of Representatives, District 92.

The Star-News asked each of those candidates, Mike Jones and Greg White, to address issues in the race. The questions were presented to the candidates in written form, and written answers were returned.

Those answers follow.

What is the most important issue in the race?

Jones: I have stated many times that the two most important issues in this race are jobs and education. Working for quality jobs will be one of my highest priorities. The economic survival of our communities, state and nation is directly linked to people going back to work. When we work, the economy grows. I will work with all of our local officials to keep and create much-needed jobs. To bring the best quality jobs to our communities, we must constantly improve our educational system. We are blessed with great schools and wonderful teachers. However, it is time to think “outside the box” to provide our teachers the options to take our children to the next level. Education strengthens our communities and our state. I will work with our superintendents, principals and teachers to ensure that our children receive the best education possible.

Given the current situation of back-to-back years of prorated budgets, how does Alabama better project revenue?

Jones: I believe you must look at realistic expectations of revenue. Given the extreme changes in our economy, I do not believe a five-year average is a sensible method to project revenue. Our state should react to the change in economic times just like our families and businesses must react. In other words, we must project our revenues upon a more conservative projection as opposed to an unrealistically high projection., If we take in more revenue than expected, the state should use that money to best serve the people, i.e. rainy day fund/education. A five-year average will artificially inflate projected revenue in a volatile economy like we have today.

Should the revenue issue be addressed with additional taxes?

Jones: No. Spending cuts should come first. Tighten the belt before you raise taxes. Raising taxes is no guarantee of increased revenue. In fact, it often has the opposite effect. People will cut back resulting in less revenue.

In my opinion, we must take this opportunity to decrease the size of government. Government did not grow to its present size overnight. We must gradually decrease the size of government to allow our citizens to adjust. It is time we lose some weight and prepare for the lean years. Raising taxes should always be the last resort.

Tell us your position on electronic gaming?

Jones: I have always been consistent on my stand on electronic gaming. I do not believe gambling is the answer to our economic problems. As a family lawyer, I see how gambling has devastated our Alabama families. In addition, the Alabama Supreme Court has clearly ruled that electronic gaming is illegal under current Alabama law.

Would you support a vote of the public for/against electronic gaming?

Jones: I personally cannot support gambling. If, however, the people of District 92 wish to vote on the issue, I would not oppose a clear up or down vote with no strings attached.

What makes you more qualified than your opponent for the Republican nomination?

Jones: I bring more skills and experience to the job than my opponent. As a city councilman for eight years, I was able to work with other government leaders and business leaders to bring jobs to our community. I was the only councilman who regularly held town hall meetings, which made me directly accountable to the people I represented. I served on the Southeast Alabama Gas Board of Directors for eight years. During my tenure on the gas board, I was elected chairman by the 13 mayor board members, served on the gas purchase hedge committee for seven years, and traveled to Germany, South Korea, and Japan recruiting industries to locate in the Southeast Alabama region.

Because of my 18 years experience in the legal profession (as a lawyer and judge), I know how to read and understand a bill before it is voted into law. I have also had experience writing and creating resolutions and ordinances while serving on the Andalusia City Council.

What many people may not realize is that state, county and city government are required by law to pass a balanced budget every year. The real issue is whether or not the government intends to follow its budget. Governments get in trouble when they do not follow their budgets.

I have experience preparing budgets for both the City of Andalusia and the Southeast Alabama Gas Board. Being a successful small business owner for over 15 years, I understand the importance of preparing a good-faith balanced budget and sticking to it.

Seth Hammett began representing District 92 as a young man, and so will I. This job requires someone that not only has the experience to work with others, but is willing to stand up and fight when it’s necessary. I stand on my record that I am capable and willing to fight for District 92.

What is the most important issue in this race?

White: Economic development, jobs, and education are on everyone’s mind. We have been fortunate not to have been as adversely affected as many areas of the nation, but our local voters still express much concern about the instability and uncertainty they see. The legislature must work closely with the new administration to enhance the prospects for job creation among our existing employers. Enhancing our education in the state will go hand in hand with improving our job prospects. I have been privileged to see that work well here in Covington County, as we brought in job training for high school students, and then we began seeing new jobs come into the area as a direct result of that effort.

2. Given the current situation of back-to-back years of prorated budgets, how does Alabama better project revenue? Should the revenue issue be addressed with additional taxes?

White: Alabama must move to a multi-year budgeting process. In other words, they must take the moving average of revenue for the past five or seven years, and let that establish the base-line for revenue projections. Currently, the legislature looks at this year’s revenue, and tries to guess what kind of growth they may have, and then budgets that higher number. Using the multi-year approach would take some of the peaks and valleys out of the process, providing a much more consistent prediction.

As has been proven time after time, increased taxes tend to lower revenue. Conversely, lower tax rates have historically provided growth in revenue! The best example I know is right here in Alabama. Gov. Riley proposed a $1 billion tax increase, which was defeated at the ballot box. Then, in the following through to five years, Alabama experienced one of the greatest growths in revenue in our history.

3. Tell us your position on electronic gaming? Would you support a vote of the public for/against electronic gaming?

White: I am personally opposed to gambling, because of my core values and convictions. And, after much review of the issue during the recent debates across our state, I believe very strongly that it is a poor choice from a policy perspective, as well.

Gaming generates quick cash, but the long-term cost to taxpayers will potentially outweigh the revenue generated.

South Carolina voters repealed legal electronic gaming in their state after a few years because of its negative impact. A North Carolina study shows that the divorce rate for problem gamblers measures around 40 percent, compared to that of non-gamblers which is 18.2 percent. I don’t see any redeeming qualities in gaming.

The legislature is charged with voting on gaming, and I will be pleased to vote on it. We do not have a way to measure whether the voters want an issue on the ballot. I will support Initiative and Referendum, which would create a vehicle for the voter to get issues on the ballot.

Allowing the gaming interests to get an initiative on the ballot, and then spend millions in support of it, doesn’t give me a warm feeling about “letting the people vote.” We saw recently where that kind of effort – if passed – would’ve given a monopoly to a few counties, and a few gambling lords.

4. What makes you more qualified than your opponent for the Republican nomination?

White: I’ve had the privilege of serving as chair of the Covington County Commission for 13½ years. During this time, I served daily in economic development, worked regularly with our education leadership to respond to their needs, and joined our professional staff to manage the finances, human resource function, insurance, and deal with legal matters of the county.

I helped draft legislation, and reviewed dozens of other pieces of legislation, and debated the pros and cons of issues within the commission, and with county leadership across the state. I met regularly with our legislative delegation, and with the governor and highway director, as we fought to obtain funding for Covington County.

All the things I did were done working in unison with other elected officials and staff. I realize that my abilities are limited, but by developing relationship with others, we saw much accomplished during my years of service.

One of the most important areas facing the incoming legislature will be dealing with the state’s budgets. Having presented 14 balanced budgets, and having over 25 years of experience in public accounting, have uniquely qualified me to contribute significantly to this process.