Candidates for the District 8 state Senate seat clashed Wednesday over border security, and even closing the border, and the potential impacts on education and the economy, in a wide-ranging debate earlier this month.
Republican Senate candidate Irene Littleton said closing the border would help save $2.8 billion that could be used toward education, among other things.
Democratic incumbent Sen. Barbara McGuire concurred that funding for education is critical, in part because the state’s economic development is fueled by education. “Without an educated workforce, companies are going to continue to outsource for their needs,” she said.
But McGuire said closing the border would cause Arizona to lose billions of dollars in trade, hurting the state’s fragile economy, although she does support securing the border.
House candidates Carmen Casillas, a Democrat, and Republican incumbents Frank Pratt and T.J. Shope also participated.
Pratt and Shope said legislation geared toward mining, agriculture and energy is essential to economic growth.
To that end, Shope said he took part in a House delegation that aimed to expand trade with Mexico. He also said he works with city council members and economic-development groups to help citizens in his district find employment.
“It’s important for communities to work together,” Shope said.
Casillas said one way of encouraging economic development in District 8 would be putting call centers or a “substation” of larger corporations in smaller towns so people “don’t have to drive 30 to 40 miles to get to a job.”
Littleton added that she feels the government needs to create an environment in which jobs can thrive. Littleton said improving education and limiting “federal overreach” are important for attracting companies to Arizona.
McGuire suggested small businesses should get some of the same tax breaks that larger corporations receive so they can create more jobs.
Casillas said education is “the most pressing issue in the district.” She said most teachers go to other districts because the pay is so low, which McGuire also mentioned.
“We need to do better,” Casillas said.
When asked about how they would handle the proposal to eliminate the state income tax, all of the candidates said the tax would have to be redistributed to another area of taxation, most likely sales tax.
“I don’t know that people on lower-level income could afford that kind of tax hike,” McGuire said.
Littleton said that although the sales tax would increase, the result would be people who don’t now pay income taxes, like illegal immigrants, would have to pay.
“To bring the sales tax to the level it would need to be would be regressive,” Pratt said.
McGuire agreed, saying the sales tax of 5.6 percent would need to be raised another 2.6 percentage points to make up for the loss.