The League of Women Voters of Brown County sent questionnaires to all candidates who have opposition in the May 3 primary in the following races: U.S. Senate, U.S. Congress District 9, State Senate District 44, State House District 65, Brown County Council at-large, Brown County Commissioner District 3 and Brown County Recorder. Their answers will appear in the Brown County Democrat as space is available over the next few weeks.
The League of Women Voters of Brown County — a nonpartisan organization — chose the questions. Answers appear in the candidates’ own words, though some were trimmed to fit available space.
9th District Democrat candidate Bill Thomas did not send answers to any questions.
What are three specific things you would recommend to improve health care and reduce costs?
Bob Kern: Rights to choose provider, the right not to have healthcare without being threatened or arrested, and where employers can work with their employees.
James McClure Jr.: By returning the decisions to the individual as opposed to federal bureaucrats, fraud and waste will be reduced as taxpayers will be overseeing the spending of their hard-earned money. The health care recipient and their doctor are best suited to make decisions on which procedures are or are not needed. Competition between providers drives down prices and drives up product quality. The federal government should allow health care competition across state lines. Health insurance should not be coupled to an employer; this is a hold-over from the wage caps of the New Deal. Individuals should be empowered to shop for the best health insurance coverage in an open marketplace.Thomas: No response.
Shelli Yoder: One lever for lowering health care costs is increased competition. Instead of the government setting prices for health care commodities, Medicare should expand competitive bidding nationwide — and extend it to medical devices, laboratory tests and all other commodities. Medicare’s market-based prices should then be extended to all federal health programs. Health care consumers need to know how much something costs before treatment. Many state laws prevent nonphysician providers such as advanced-practice nurses from practicing to the full extent of their training. Making greater use of these providers would expand the workforce supply, which would increase competition and lower prices.
Robert “Bob” Hall: Under Obamacare, premiums are up a lot and so are deductibles. State health care exchanges are failing. Insurance companies need bailouts. Obamacare is imploding and must be repealed. Health care costs can be reduced by allowing health insurance companies to sell across state lines and by more price shopping for medical and hospital services.
Trey Hollingsworth: We all want more affordable health care and insurance, and we all want policies that will protect us during challenging moments in our lives. But Obamacare is not accomplishing that. We must repeal Obamacare in its entirety. Under Obamacare, premiums continue to climb. Employers, who want to hire more Hoosiers, are held back because of mandates which smother business growth and job creation. We need to encourage greater competition in the insurance market by freeing up insurers to provide care across state lines. We should allow greater freedom for patients by eliminating the coverage mandate and allowing for different types of policies. American innovators will work to reduce the cost and improve patient care, but we have to get government out of the way.
Erin Houchin: The first step towards improving health care has to be a full repeal and replacement of Obamacare. I support a consumer-driven, market based approach to health insurance. Government has no place between us and our doctors. I believe if patients are empowered with accurate information regarding costs and services and health care providers are in a market-driven competitive environment, service will improve and costs will go down. This is a model that works in all other sectors of the economy. We should encourage competition across state lines to ensure the best options are provided at the lowest cost. We also should trust our physicians and the American people, not bureaucrats, to make the right decisions and give consumers access to tools like health savings accounts.
Brent Waltz: First, I will vote to repeal Obamacare. Second, I would permit individual states to coordinate with one another to negotiate better contracts with insurance companies for their healthcare exchanges. Third, insurance companies should be incentivized to offer early screening and testing for diseases that might, if left undetected, endanger a patient’s life and cost far more to cure in the future.
Greg Zoeller: Our health care system has been federalized with the Affordable Care Act and needs more flexibility. While repealing and replacing this system is a goal, there are some specific things which can be done to improve health care and reduce costs immediately. First, there needs to be a streamlined process to allow for waivers for states and local communities to structure their system of providing health care. Second, preventative health care and wellness must be a legislative priority of Congress. Third, there is a critical need for mental health and addiction treatment as a focus of our health care system.
Where do you see our country in five to 10 years as far as energy development and the role of renewable energy?
Kern: Boosting economy, more job creation and Social Security back on track and even better with the Bob Kern Plan.
McClure: These United States must continue to develop our available energy resources of all types, including coal, oil, shale, nuclear, wind, hydro, geothermal and solar, with the goal being energy independence. There are sufficient energy resources and options within our borders to make us self-sufficient. The federal government should not pick one type of energy as a winner over another. The consumer and industry should be given access to inexpensive energy to drive our economy. As renewable energy options become more efficient and less expensive, they will naturally supplement and eventually replace older, nonrenewable options.
Yoder: I am in favor of an “all-of-the-above” approach to energy independence with an emphasis on renewable energy. As a “coal-burning” state, we need to make sure we have a transition period to other forms of energy and to be prudent in our approach. By investing in our energy future, we can reduce utility cost, create jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign countries for our energy needs.
Hall: With a Republican president, we will have a boom in energy development. More areas will open up for oil and gas exploration. The Keystone Pipeline will be completed. Wasteful subsidies for wind and solar energy will be stopped. Wind and solar will continue to be cost-ineffective. The coal industry will be saved. With greater supplies of energy, the cost for gasoline and electricity will decline. Climate change will be revealed to be a fraud and discredited.
Hollingsworth: Our current energy environment is broken. The government continues to impose energy taxes and regulations that make it hard for employers to build a better future. We must let American firms, innovators and workers continue to invest right here at home to develop future technologies and maximize the resources we have. We must stop providing subsidies to energy providers and allow the private markets to decide which forms of energy are the most effective. It is not the job of the government to pick winners and losers.
Houchin: I support an all-of-the-above approach to energy research and development. We should open access to domestic fossil fuel production, which will decrease energy costs and make us less dependent on foreign oil. In addition, I envision technological advances that will allow alternative energy sources to become more affordable and readily available. However, I do not support government intervention into the energy marketplace, such as those taken by President Obama in an effort to prop up some energy producers at the expense of others. I will work to stop the President’s war on coal, which has cost Indiana jobs and increased energy costs, and will combat job-killing regulations pushed by the EPA.
Waltz: Indiana is dependent on inexpensive energy to heat our homes and power our factories. Recent regulations by the Obama administration that attack coal-fired power plants threaten Indiana’s economic security while doing very little to help the environment. Congress needs to take back its historic duty to make laws instead of allowing Washington bureaucrats to be in control. Energy independence is within reach for the United States by better oil and natural gas drilling technology and energy efficiency. I believe we will attain this achievement within a decade.
Zoeller: As a nation we simply must develop a realistic energy plan that both maintains our current and future energy needs and recognizes the relative risks and benefits of the sources of energy generation. Since regions of our country rely on different sources of energy, a national approach is essential and a system of shared costs required. Battles between regions, battles between oil and gas, coal and renewables and political battles have resulted in a failure to develop a national energy strategy in large part due to the failure and dysfunction within Congress.
To ensure we stay competitive on the global economic stage, what is your vision to ensure access to post-secondary education and training without causing unsupportable personal debt?
Kern: Everything starts with opportunity and education and encouraging people and giving them hope and self-worth. Adding jobs where there is a six-week training course in CCS to make $30 an hour and boosting the economy and lowering the national debt.
McClure: The federal government’s subsidizing of education is unconstitutional. There is no provision in Article 1, Section 8 for such expenditures. As the government has subsidized more and more post-secondary education costs, those costs have risen at a greater and greater rate. As in all open, free markets, competition between education providers will reduce costs and improve quality. We must also recognize that college is not the best career path for all and that training in trades and other skills should be encouraged.
Yoder: We must reform the way that college is paid for. I am in favor of expanding Pell Grants. I am also in support of proposals to limit the federal student loan interest rate so that the federal government does not profit from students and families who are investing in education. Repayment plans must be reformed to allow refinancing. In addition, government, business and other groups can work together to provide training to meet the work force needs of our economy rather than relying on government alone to predict these needs.
Hall: In order to stay competitive on the global economic stage, we need to bring back manufacturing jobs lost to Mexico and China. We can do that by replacing the income tax with a fair tax eliminating the IRS, repealing Obamacare, stopping China’s currency manipulations, quitting the climate change nonsense and changing the unfair trade policies. I will fight for a balanced budget constitutional amendment. With a strong economy, families will have more funds to access post-secondary education.
Hollingsworth: In 2010, the federal government took over student loans, so the government is profiting from increased loan debt while universities are raising costs. We will be unable to get costs under control if we do not change this system. We need to help students understand their choices. We need schools to be more transparent about the real costs. We need leadership that understands finance and what careers will be needed in the work force, not legislators who have been working in government too long.
Houchin: As a state senator, I have supported increased trade and technical education in our schools for those who are not college-bound. The United States still has the strongest post-secondary education system in the entire world. We must continue to challenge our colleges and universities to innovate and continuously look for ways to keep tuition low. Three-year degree programs as well as increased college course options in high school are already helping students complete their degrees in four years or less.
Waltz: I have been a strong advocate for increased vocational education funding for Indiana. As a member of Senate Appropriations Committee, I repeatedly voted funding increases to these programs. Additionally, my legislation allowed age-specific financial education to be taught so young Hoosiers will learn how to balance a checkbook, manage credit card debt and mortgage payments, as well as make smart decisions on college loans.
Zoeller: Changes are needed in federal loan programs while providing incentives for greater use of technology in higher education to reduce costs. The federal effort to reduce interest rates on student loans Congress made student debt nondischargable in bankruptcy. As a result, the amount of student loans, debt and college costs have spiraled higher and higher. The current $1.3 trillion in student debt must be addressed while reforming student loan legislation to create a market-based, sustainable system.
How do you respond to people who feel disenfranchised by special interests and the amount of money spent in campaign financing?
Kern: I will change where people will not fall through the cracks, where they have easier access to their congressman to work hard for them to get their needs met. Open door policy and congressman-to-your-door service, open with later hours, and extend the days, too.
McClure: Candidates spend large amounts of money on campaigns and special interest groups donate huge sums to buy the votes of candidates because Congress exercises unconstitutional powers. By returning the federal government to its Article 1, Section 8 boundaries and by removing special privilege clauses in existing law, so that all are treated equally before the law, the corrupting campaign money which chases this unconstitutional power and special privileges will dry up. Americans will be free to pursue their lives as they see fit, exercising their individual liberty, and our federal government will return to its role as a servant of the people, not a ruler over the people.
Yoder: The influence that money has on the political process is undermining our democracy and fueling a dangerous lack of engagement in our society. We must end the flood of secret, unaccountable money in our politics, and I will push for legislation to require outside groups to publicly disclose political spending. I would also support a Constitutional amendment to reverse the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling, which allows Super PACs to spend unlimited amounts of money to influence the outcome of elections.
Hall: People who feel disenfranchised need to join my Grassroots Conservatives group, attend our monthly meetings and receive my weekly eNews. We are running a grassroots campaign for Congress that is not dependent on large campaign donations, wealthy donors and special interests. We are aligned with other grassroots conservatives groups and coordinate activities with them. We train volunteers to make phone calls, write letters and advocate for conservative causes. I am the most conservative candidate in this race promoting more economic and individual freedom.
Hollingsworth: Lobbyists, special interests and party leadership promising campaign funds and bigger offices have diluted our voice in government. I have personally reached out and listened to the concerns of thousands of Hoosiers, on the phone and at their doorsteps. I have pledged to each one that I will serve no more than eight years because we all deserve better than “go-along-to-get-ahead” political insiders who place the next election ahead of the next generation. The system in Washington is “by politicians, for politicians,” and we need to dismantle that in favor of what the Founding Fathers envisioned: by the people, for the people.
Houchin: One of my opponents has been a part of the establishment for 30 years. Another opponent, part of the corporate establishment, just moved here from Tennessee a few months ago and views the 9th District seat in Congress as something he can buy. We need someone who wants to do something to address the issues we face and not just want to be somebody. I have lived, worked and served in this district my entire life. Salem will always be my home, not Washington, D.C. I am running because I want to go to work, solve these critical issues facing our country and come back home to Indiana. I want us to be able to say to our kids and grandkids that in 2016 our country was on a dangerous path, but we stood up, we fought back and we fixed our nation.
Waltz: I have dedicated my time in public service to representing my community. The men and women who have honored me with three terms in the Indiana Senate are the only special interest that I care about. As your Congressman, I pledge that same promise. I will represent you to the best of my ability and above all other considerations and special interests.
Zoeller: Following the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United, the amount of money spent in political campaigns has risen tremendously. The difficulty in changing campaign finance laws is due to the decision that contributions are legally viewed as free speech. So while many would like stricter campaign finance laws, they cannot limit free political speech. One reform that can legally be instituted is real-time reporting of all contributions that go toward political activity. Free speech should only be free if the source of the speech is known.