Georgia primary profiles

Three Republican primary contests involving federal and state offices take place Tuesday. The Chronicle asked the candidates their positions on the issues.

 

STATE HOUSE DISTRICT 117

BRETT MCGUIRE

HOME: Appling

OCCUPATION: Retired businessman

LEE ANDERSON

HOME: Grovetown

OCCUPATION: Farmer

Q: What plan would you propose to offer tax relief?

BRETT MCGUIRE

There are a lot of plans on the table, but I'm leaning toward freezing property taxes. If your assessment goes up $50,000, your homestead exemption should go up by the same amount. As long as you own your home, your taxes essentially will be frozen, but if you sell it the new owner is taxed at the higher rate.

LEE ANDERSON

One of the main areas I would look at would be to bring the private sector in to run such organizations like recreation. I believe we can reduce taxes in that area and still have quality recreation. The burning problem we have right now is gas prices. I believe we should suspend state taxes on gasoline immediately. I'd also like to work toward a fair tax.

Q: What can lawmakers do to improve public education?

BRETT MCGUIRE

I don't like it when political bureaucrats dictate what local boards of education have to do. I'm a big proponent of keeping as much as we can under local control. And we need to eliminate unfunded mandates.

LEE ANDERSON

I believe the biggest thing is taking a burden off teachers for the paper workload and let the teachers carry out their job of teaching our children. I'd also like to reduce the number of students per teacher to give them more one-on-one time.

Q: What role should state legislators play in the expansion of the Medical College of Georgia?

BRETT MCGUIRE

There's no doubt we need more doctors. If the quickest and most economical way to accomplish that is to expand into Athens and Savannah then let's by all means do it. But I'm not sure that's the case. Whatever the case may be, it's the state Legislature's responsibility to ensure the funding is there for the growth.

LEE ANDERSON

I would be there 110 percent in any way I could to help expand MCG in any way we can.

STATE HOUSE DISTRICT 118

BEN HARBIN (INCUMBENT)

HOME: Evans

OCCUPATION: Co-owner of a land survey company and part owner of an employee benefits company

LEE BENEDICT

HOME: Martinez

OCCUPATION: Teacher

Q: What plan would you propose to offer tax relief?

BEN HARBIN (INCUMBENT)

We're trying to move to a fairer tax with a sales tax system, which is a good plan to relieve pressure on property owners and those paying income taxes. The lieutenant governor's plan to reduce the income tax is a good plan. I think the biggest impact we can have on individuals is removing the tax on cars. ... Automobiles are not a luxury. ... You can't do anything without that necessity.

LEE BENEDICT

What has made the most sense is the plan to reduce state income tax by 10 percent over five years. ... It's popular to say you want to get rid of the ad valorem tax ... but in Virginia they did that and services were cut, public universities had to raise tuition and there were hiring freezes on police departments. We can offer tax reform all day, but we have to get spending reform.

Q: What can lawmakers do to improve public education?

BEN HARBIN (INCUMBENT)

We've committed ourselves to fully funding the formula for public education ... because that's money that goes into the classroom. For the past four years, since I've been (chairman of the House Appropriations Committee) we have increased education funding by over $1 billion. If a parent has a better option for educating a child, whether it's home schooling or moving to another school, that option should exist.

LEE BENEDICT

We are testing the kids too much. For example, the CRCT (Criterion-Referenced Competency Test) costs the state $12.5 million. The Georgia Department of Education testing program is a $35-million-a-year bureaucracy and $34 million goes just for tests. Most of those tests are not made in Georgia. Let the local school systems do their jobs with minimal interference from Atlanta.

Q: What role should state legislators play in the expansion of the Medical College of Georgia?

BEN HARBIN (INCUMBENT)

This year we fully funded the dental school to the tune of $70 million. There is $3 million for the medical building, to design it. We've set the base in Augusta. ... Now they can seek research dollars to expand across the state. We're low on the number of physicians in Georgia. ... By fully funding MCG and allowing them to seek further research dollars we help the entire state.

LEE BENEDICT

The Medical College of Georgia is in Augusta and it should stay in Augusta to every extent possible. If there is an overwhelming number of applicants and a need for doctors, and this area cannot accommodate, then we need a satellite campus at the University of Georgia.

U.S. CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT 10

PAUL BROUN

(INCUMBENT)

HOME: Watkinsville

OCCUPATION: Doctor

BARRY FLEMING

HOME: Harlem

OCCUPATION: State representative of District 117, attorney

Q: By what means would you as a lawmaker effect a change in gas prices?

PAUL BROUN

I've sponsored bills to have a comprehensive energy program that would allow development of our own natural resources. We need to drill for oil now wherever we can find it in America. We have to stop the dependence on Middle Eastern oil. We have to look to alternative sources of fuel, such as clean-coal technology, coal-to-liquid technology, hydrogen. ... We need to streamline the process to build new (nuclear) reactors and to build new (oil) refineries.

BARRY FLEMING

I'd do three things. First, I'd eliminate the federal gas tax over the summer months when travel is heaviest. The second thing I would do is drill here and drill now. We have oil reserves off the coast of this nation and in Alaska and we should be drilling. The third thing is work long-term to become energy independent ... through clean-coal technology and the use of nuclear power.

Q: How would you protect Social Security?

PAUL BROUN

We have to stop spending the money people pay for Social Security and I've introduced legislation to do so. We have to fix it so that the people dependent on Social Security and Medicare will get it. We need to invest the Social Security trust fund in a vehicle to get us a better return. I've introduced legislation to take the taxes off Social Security payments so Social Security recipients don't have to pay income taxes. ... We have to give young people some flexibility so they have the option to invest in other private types of accounts.

BARRY FLEMING

First of all, I won't say it's unconstitutional, like my opponent. I think we need to allow young people to make decisions about investing their money in Social Security. I want to give them some options that give them a higher return.

Q: What can be done legislatively to improve America's recessive economy?

PAUL BROUN

Passing the fair tax will help markedly to boost the economy. That's not going to happen anytime soon, but I've pledged to work with the fair tax people nationally to try to develop grassroots support to get it passed. In the meantime, we need to lower the tax burden and the regulatory burden on business and industry to create new jobs.

BARRY FLEMING

Cut taxes. Drill for oil, because the day we open up oil drilling in this nation, speculators will quit buying oil futures at the high prices they're doing it at now. That will drop the price of oil overnight and that will help our community.