ESCANABA - Candidates vying for the 108th District seat in the State House of Representatives were given the opportunity Wednesday to speak about what would be their top priorities if elected to the two-year term in November.
Incumbent Republican Ed McBroom and Democrat candidate Sharon Gray answered a variety of questions during a candidate forum held at Escanaba City Hall.
The annual event is sponsored by the League of Women Voters, the American Association of University Women, and the Delta Chamber of Commerce.
Candidates for the 108th District seat in the Michigan House of Representatives Sharon Gray, left, and Ed McBroom shake hands Wednesday. (Daily Press photo by Jenny Lancour)
Gray said her top three priorities, if elected, would be repealing the pension tax on senior citizens, restoring public education funding, and job creation. She said new businesses need to be attracted to the state by improving the infrastructure - roads and bridges - and by improving education of the future workforce.
In Gray's opening statement to the audience, she said the creation of jobs is a main concern in the district. She added it's important the representative elected understands how legislative policies affect people at the local level. She criticized McBroom for voting to increase taxes on the middle class and seniors.
In his opening statement, McBroom addressed how the state has addressed a dysfunctional government and deficit finances by agreeing on an early budget that got rid of a deficit and created a surplus. The budget also increased funding for both education and infrastructure, he added.
McBroom said his top priorities, if re-elected, would be to continue to work on improving career technical education opportunities in high schools. He would also like to look at ways to decrease the cost of automobile insurance in Michigan, which is the most expensive in the nation. His third priority would be to increase penalties on illegal drugs, including drug sales.
Both candidates were asked what each viewed as the top three social programs in the state.
McBroom said programs such as WIC (Women, Infants and Children) and the Bridge Card provide people with basic needs to live. The state's home heating credit program and education programs, including higher education, are also important, he said.
Gray listed the top social programs in the state as health insurance for children who families cannot afford insurance, the senior lunch program, home heating assistance, unemployment benefits, and veterans services.
Other topics addressed by both candidates included collective bargaining and Proposal 2. It would amend the state constitution regarding collective bargaining, affecting some laws that are already in place.
Mc Broom said he supports collective bargaining and unions negotiating for wages and benefits, but he does not support Proposal 2 because he feels its threatens good labor laws.
Gray said she is in favor of Proposal 2 because it protects working families and those who work for a living.
The two differed on their opinion on Proposal 3, which establishes a standard for renewable energy. The proposal specifies that electric utilities must provide at least 25 percent of annual sales from renewable energy resources - such as wind, solar, biomass, or hydropower - by the year 2025.
Gray said she favors the renewable energy amendment, adding that it's time the state did something to provide good clean energy for the people of Michigan.
McBroom said he opposes the measure, describing the proposal as "awful" and not a good option. Renewable energy should be maintained where it is now and not at 25 percent by 2025, he said.
When asked what each views as the single most important resource available in the state to attract new businesses, the candidates' answers varied. Gray said the state needs to invest in education. McBroom said the state needs to invest more in public safety.
Gray and McBroom did agree on some issues presented. They both said election campaign funds should be limited. They also agreed public funding for education needs to be improved in Michigan. They both are against Michigan becoming a right-to-work state.
Gray and McBroom agree funding has to be allocated to pay for roads and bridges, but are each against raising taxes to pay for this.
Regarding local workforce development, both candidates spoke in favor of expanding vocational and career technical courses in high schools to offer students more job opportunities after graduation.