Texas Dist. 2 Senate Candidates Defined by Voting Records in Canton Debate
Two elected officials are vying for the District 2 State Senate seat, which has been held the last four years by Senator Bob Hall, who is seeking reelection. State House Dist. 113 Representative Cindy Burkett is challenging him for the seat. She has served three terms in the House (six years). The two candidates met for a Republican Primary Election Candidate Forum Monday evening, February 12, that was sponsored by the Van Zandt County Republican Club and Edom Tea Party at the Canton Civic Center.
A panel of moderators who asked questions of candidates submitted by citizens prior to the event, was made up of Ken Hilton with Mercy Ships, Bob Reese of Re/Max Landmark, and Brad Blakemore, Publisher of Van Zandt Newspapers.
After opening statements, the first question was asked: What is your position and how have you voted with regards to free market enterprise and reducing crony capitalism, which is where friends of government officials to business leaders, are given unfair advantages to form jobs, loans, and so on.
Bob Hall answered first, “I’m absolutely opposed to the crony capitalism that we currently have and the process in Austin. I have voted against every opportunity I’ve had, the free enterprise fund where we pick winners and losers in the private sector. It is absolutely wrong. The government has no business being in that. Programs like the Major Events Fund, where we fund cities to have events and pay them back; that’s not the role of government. And, the motion picture fund…we actually paid companies from Hollywood to come to Texas and make movies like Machete and Texas Chain Saw Massacre and even commercials for Walmart. I have voted against every time they have been brought up, every proposal, bill that was offered that would expand any one of those. I have been adamantly opposed to it, and have filed bills to get rid of all of those crony capitalism programs.”
Cindy Burkett argued, “I just wanted to point out something that Senator Hall referred to: The Texas Movie Film Image and Industry Incentive Program. For every dollar the State of Texas spends on these grants, 5.79 percent in the local economy, and this has been the case from the very beginning, so we’re seeing many come back in to our State and our districts, and our local communities; but I think that when we look at how our governments have got the highest rate for our businesses, until just recently when we had the new tax program pass up in DC, which brought it down from 35 percent to 20 percent. So, if we can offer our businesses a tax break to bring their jobs into this State, and make sure that you have good paying jobs, as long as we have sufficient oversight over that, and a fallback program of some sort, to make sure that it’s delivering what they say it’s going to deliver, I think we need to use it as a tool.”
Hall rebutted, “Just remember this. When a business is given a tax abatement, and it come here and it brings the people with it, it needs services just like you and your business that was already here; and so, somebody has to pay for that. And so, what happens is, you end up paying for that business just to get it into the community; and we have never had anybody show that the net effect to our state was good by picking winners and losers and giving an abatement to someone; and we haven’t found that any of the enterprise programs, including movie industry fund, has ever actually netted to save any money; and even if it did, it’s not the business of government to be in the free market system.
Burkett’s rebuttal: “We have got to make sure that Texas is as competitive as other states around us, and they do have programs such as this. Does anyone work at AutoZone in Terrell, or know somebody who does? That’s one that was paid for to bring into the State with the program that Mr. Hall is discussing.
Question: What is your position and how have you voted on bills or amendments related to the creation of new toll roads and/or the abolishing of existing toll roads?
Burkett answered first, “…We have 1,200 people a day moving to the State of Texas, bringing their vehicles with them. Now, if you want to look at that in a very conservative fashion, four people per vehicle, that’s 300 vehicles a day moving into our State. We have not kept up with that. I think we need to look at strategically how we use any kind of managed lanes.” She then reminded people of when I-30 from Fort Worth to Dallas was a toll road. “What happened after we got it paid off,” she queried the crowd of about 200 listeners, then she answered, “We took the toll off of it.”
She continued, “We have been tolled to death. I don’t argue with that. But I do know that we’ve got to be able to get our roads paid for and that that’s one of the tools that we need to look at strategically.”
Hall responded, “Ever since I got to Austin, I’ve opposed toll roads. We don’t need them. We can build our roads without them… I have voted against every expansion of toll roads, whereas my opponent has consistently voted for more toll roads and even voted against a bill where we were going to take the toll off the roads after it was paid for. We do not need that. It discriminates against the poor.” He then estimated that over the years, a family that regularly uses toll roads, will pay $135,000, which amounts to a college education or home ownership. “We call them Lexus lanes because it’s something for the rich,” Hall pressed on, “I will continue to fight until we have non-toll roads for everybody.”
Burkett rebutted and brought up an issue of managed lanes on 635, a project which is not on hold, as a result. She claimed that money from Kaufman and Rockwall Counties, intended for use on sections of Highway 80 and Interstate 30, needed to be diverted from those projects to allow the construction on LBJ East (635) to move forward. [Read more about that project here.]
Hall reported in his rebuttal that he had the Governor’s and Lt. Governor’s support in delaying the project long enough to reallocate funds for LBJ East, from the cancelled Trinity River Bridge project. There was enough money that had been set aside for that cancelled project, that there was no need to move ahead with a toll-funded project on LBJ/635.
The next question asked for their definition of what it meant to them to be pro-life, and what pro-life legislation they’ve supported or voted against.
Hall said, “I am absolutely 100 percent pro-life. Life begins at conception for each of us, when we are crafted in our mother’s womb by God’s hands in His image. In His image means, in exactly the way that He crafted us, with all of our faults and all of our good points. He gave each of us a lifespan. Some, He gave us a 100 years, some 50, some a few months, days, or even a few minutes; but it’s His doing. Man has no business interfering in that. I believe 100 percent, in life from conception till natural, go-home by God.”
Burkett touted her involvement in passing HB2, the Preborn Pain Act, in 2013, which stopped abortions after 20 weeks gestation, and her involvement as the main author in HB 8, “…which got rid of partial abortion, dismemberment abortion, it got rid of baby body parts being sold, as is currently done by Planned Parenthood… We did have an amendment on that bill, the Schaefer Amendment. And basically, what that did was a 20-week ban. There are only two exceptions to abortion after 20 weeks. One is the case of the life of the mother, one if the case of extreme fetal abnormalities, when the baby will not survive outside of the womb, even with medical care. That amendment would have removed that exception… I did vote to table that amendment.”
Hall answered back, “…Taking a life, is taking a life… We had the opportunity to end late term abortions, a back door for Planned Parenthood that can be used because you can find a doctor who’s willing to do a late-term abortion. They’ll have no problem lying about what the condition of the baby is, so that they can abort them, because there is no evidence left. It’s a loophole we could have closed this last session.”
Burkett rebutted, “I am a very pro-life candidate. I have passed more pro-life legislation than Mr. Hall has voted on…” She then accused Hall as his supporters of accusing her of being in support of aborting children with non-life threatening health issues, such as Down Syndrome babies.
Hall answered the charge, “Again, that was God’s handiwork; and you talk to a woman who has gone ahead and had the abortion, and then found out that the doctor was wrong.” He then said that doctors sometimes make mistakes and misdiagnose, only to realize that the baby was perfectly normal. He continued, “Or, talk to the mother whose baby only lived for a few hours or a few minutes, and feel the completeness that she had, that at least she had held her child for what life God had given it. We could have stopped it. We need to stop it, and we need to stop it next session, and I will vote for it next session.”
The next question dealt with whether or not they supported property tax reform.
Burkett responded, “…My main concern was, that until we take care of our school funding, you guys are not going to see any property tax relief.” The next time the Legislature looks at property tax reform, Burkett wants to look at 1) get rid of all unfunded mandates, 2) look at school funding to make sure that you guys get the reform that you are thinking is relief.
Hall answered, “Absolutely, we need property tax reform. We passed that bill for putting a trigger at four percent. It wasn’t a cap; it just meant that you the people got a say if you wanted your property tax raised for the services being offered, or you didn’t. It passed out of the Senate. It died in the House. The House proposed a six percent, which would have provided no relief at all, for you. The Governor has now stepped into this fray, and even more aggressive, talking about putting a trigger at 2.5 percent and tying it to limiting unfunded mandates. I think he’s on the right track. I think we also need to look at the appraisal process and bring some uniformity to it across the State, and let the Appraiser be elected, instead of appointed; and I think that will lead us to some real reform in property tax increases.”
The Republican Party Platform was quoted prior to a question posed to the candidates: We believe that all children should have access to quality education. We support the right to choose public, private, charter, or home education. We support the distribution of educational funds in a manner that they follow the student to any school, whether public, private, charter, or home school through means of tax exemptions and/or credits. What is your position?
Hall replied, “One of the most important responsibilities we have as adults, is the education of our children. They deserve to have the very best possible education.” He then said that over the last 50 years we have steadily increased spending in public education, while we have not improved achievement levels. He agreed with the focus of the platform, in focusing on the two most important peoples in the school system: students and teachers.
“For too long,” said Hall, “our teachers have languished at the bottom of the professional ladder in pay, where administrators are being paid 40-50 percent more on the same campus, and 100 percent more at the superintendent level.”
Burkett said that her biggest concern about vouchers is, “the use of public tax dollars going to a system that isn’t held to the same accountability as our public schools… With vouchers, how are you going to make sure those dollars are used for their intended purpose?” She suggested that another bureaucracy would need be created for accountability purposes, which would cost more money. Burkett posed the question whether or not it would be okay for that money to go to Christian and Muslim schools, alike. “Those are choices those parents would be making with your tax dollars, and I have a big hesitation with that,” she concluded.
Hall answered, “I agree with the Platform completely… The competition is good for education. It increases graduation rates, it reduces dropout rates, it improved college graduation, and most importantly, it reduces incarceration rates of young people. We tried that down in Edgewood for eight years, and it worked.” [He was referring to the Edgewood ISD in San Antonio, not the city in Van Zandt County.]
Burkett’s rebuttal: She wondered if it worked so well, why aren’t they still using it. “In Garland, we’ve got an open district. You can go anywhere you want to…that way our students have some choice.” She suggested students in one school district, be able to choose a school in another city/school district.”
Hall said that concept may work well in big cities, but doesn’t work out in rural areas. Addressing the issue of the Edgewood ISD in San Antonio, Hall explained that the project was funded by private business. “The businessman ran out of money, and the government wouldn’t step in to continue it; so it went back to the way it was before.”
The Primary election is March 6, 2018, though early voting begins February 20 and goes through March 2.