Three Republican candidates for the District 126 seat—Gail Stanart, E. Sam Harless and Kevin Fulton—and Democratic candidate Undrai Fizer participated in the discussion. Natali Hurtado, who was not present at the forum, is also running for the Democratic nomination in the primary.
Republican incumbent State House Rep. for District 150, Valoree Swanson, and challenger James R. Wilson, as well as Democratic candidate Michael Shawn Kelly, who is unopposed in the primary election, also participated in the discussion.
After brief introductions, each candidate responded to two questions. Here are several remarks by each candidate in response to one of the questions raised.
What legislation do you foresee in the next session as essential in support of business interest?
Kelly: If we only accomplish one single thing … it would be, let’s take care of our education system in the state of Texas. Public education should be the No. 1 thing we take care of. Everything flows from having an educated electorate. We can’t keep pushing this thing off on property taxes.
Wilson: If we don’t have good schools, we won’t have intelligent, capable, intelligent employable people … public school finance [reform] will address a lot of our local property tax issues, but the second thing is workforce and vocational development programs. The state needs to modify its curriculum to allow for more of these types of education programs.
Swanson: I want to let all of you loose to start businesses and have your businesses flourish. It’s small businesses that [drive] our economy. We need all the big businesses, but the small ones are what truly drive the economy and provide the majority of our jobs. I believe we need more vocational training. I believe we need to train people, especially young women in trades … that pay a decent living.
Fizer: If we can develop their mindset and their courage, people will be able to start companies if they believe in themselves. When was the last time you heard of state reps creating initiatives that empower people to really believe in themselves? … I believe we need to devote time to urban affairs. I believe those who are business owners in the area should establish mentorships to help people … know the value of a job.
Fulton: I hear over and over the statistic that the state is lowering how much they are funding education … [but] the percentage per student has gone down because the cost has gone up. The first thing we need to start looking at is: is that money being used efficiently? We have to make sure our government is running efficiently, first. For businesses ... I would like to eliminate the margin or franchise tax.
Harless: The franchise tax … I agree, that is an absolute sham. Also, we need to quit diverting money away from education. We divert $3 billion [or more] from education. There are other ways to cut waste without taking it away from education; we have to educate our kids, they are our future. I would do away with the margin tax, quit diverting money away from education [and] put it in education, so we can educate our kids.
Stanart: We need to spend less and spend it more efficiently and appropriately. I can add to that that I think we need to be careful about incentivizing businesses to come to Texas when we are taxing our current businesses that are already here. I want to incentivize you guys by lowering your taxes, reducing regulations. I agree on repealing the gross revenues tax, I agree on removing inventory tax … I agree on education, that we have got to incentivize our teachers to stay in our schools.