The League of Women Voters of Brown County sent questionnaires to all candidates with opposition on the fall ballot in the following races: U.S. Congress District 9, State Senate District 44, State House District 65, Brown County Council at large, Brown County Commissioner Districts 1 and 3, Brown County Recorder and Brown County School Board. They 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.
NOTE: District 65 candidates will debate in Brown County Thursday, Oct. 13. See the forum schedule here: http://www.bcdemocrat.com/2016/09/30/candidate_forum_schedule-2/
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Please describe the occupations, training and experience that qualify you for this office.
Chris Woods (D): I’m treating this campaign like a job interview and will put the priorities of the district over a political party’s agenda. I’ve proven to be the hardest working candidate in this race and that work ethic will not change if elected. Since January, I have worked tirelessly to meet with voters and learn the issues they are most concerned about. I look forward to the opportunity to be part of the solution and not the problem. I am proud to have the endorsements of the Indiana State Teacher’s Association, American Federation of Teachers, Indiana State Fraternal Order of Police, UAW and numerous other labor organizations. Their support only emphasizes the need for change and a representative that is willing to fight for hardworking Hoosiers.
Chris May (R): I’m a lifelong resident of House District 65, a small-business owner, three-term county commissioner, a graduate of Bedford North Lawrence High School and Vincennes University, currently working as a sales engineer with Whitney Tool Company, and own and operate Hoosier Tech Properties.
What are your top three priorities for state government?
Woods: Education: Expand early education opportunities, rebuild our state’s failed testing procedures, ensure transparency in educational funding and require all schools that receive taxpayer money to play by the same rules. Drug epidemic: Work with health care professionals to facilitate rehabilitation and affordable treatment programs. Partner with law enforcement to develop better drug prevention and educational programs. Infrastructure: Help develop a long-term bipartisan plan to improve our state’s failing infrastructure. I will work to ensure our district receives its fair share of funding to improve roads and bridges as well as making high-speed internet available throughout the state. I believe our economy will have a long-term positive impact if these three areas are effectively addressed.
May: Accountability, fiscally responsible government and a pro-business approach are the key areas for the growth and progress of south-central Indiana. I will bring those values with me to the Statehouse. I understand the needs of our local communities and will protect our hard-earned tax dollars at the Statehouse.
The state study committee on redistricting will report back in December. What is your position on nonpartisan redistricting?
Woods: For democracy to work, voters must be able to hold their elected officials accountable on Election Day. Gerrymandering protects incumbents and creates supermajorities that don’t represent the best interest of the districts but rather one political party’s agenda. A fair redistricting process by an independent commission based off common boundary lines and population numbers would help our communities elect more meaningful representation.
May: I definitely see the merits of nonpartisan redistricting being a more transparent and open process. A change would require a constitutional amendment, which is a process that takes approximately three years to complete.
Indiana has one of the largest school voucher programs in the U.S. What is your position on the continued expansion of the school voucher program? How do you balance public funding for private education against maintaining a viable public school system?
Woods: By having the nation’s largest voucher program, our state’s public school funding has taken a big cut. We need to re-evaluate our voucher program so that our rural public schools are not lacking the funds needed to operate efficiently and effectively. The lack of funding has made the teaching profession less attractive, thus creating the teacher shortage that we are currently seeing. The way it is set up now, public schools are set up to fail because they are held to a different standard than the private and charter schools. Transparency and leveling the playing field is a must when it comes to education. We have to stop playing partisan politics with our children’s educations and invest in their future.
May: Indiana has educational options that provide families the opportunity to select the best educational options for their children. I applaud this because education is not a one-size-fits-all model. The goal is to provide students the opportunity to succeed regardless of their life circumstances or where they choose to receive their education. As a state legislator, I will advocate for the students in House District 65 by fighting to ensure the school funding formula fairly distributes the appropriate amount of funding to our district schools.
Earlier this year, the General Assembly passed a stop-gap road funding bill. How should roads and other key infrastructure be funded long-term?
Woods: Indiana must address this serious infrastructure problem and come up with a bipartisan, long-term solution. I am a strong believer in giving more power and control to the local governments giving them the flexibility needed to address specific needs. I support John Gregg’s plan that redistributes state monies and allows local communities to apply for funds to help with the projects that are the most urgent. Local communities that apply for and receive this funding will have low interest rates and control over their own projects. By redistributing state funds, these necessary infrastructure updates and projects could be done without any tax increase to the taxpayer.
May: There’s not one correct answer when it comes to transportation funding. A comprehensive revenue stream should be developed utilizing a variety of mechanisms while being sensitive to revenue potential, sustainability, business friendliness and ease of implementation.
Brown County, our economic well-being is linked to the beauty and availability of public lands, many managed by the Indiana Department of Natural Resources. Where do you stand on funding the DNR and our park system?
Woods: The cuts that have been made to the DNR budget have created a major threat to communities like Brown County. Visitors from all over the world travel to this area to see the beautiful countryside and are vital to southern Indiana’s economy. We must address the funding issue and find a long-term solution that doesn’t include clear-cutting our forests and selling the timber for an average of 60 cents on the dollar. The timber harvesting has caused some major erosion problems that will only continue to compound. In addition, there is little oversight of these projects and overloaded trucks are contributing to the breakdown of roads and bridges, not to mention the safety hazard they pose. I support adequate funding of the DNR and state parks programs so that Brown County and Indiana will continue to be a great place to live and play.
May: The DNR general fund actually increased by more than $2.5 million over the prior year. Our state parks directly improve the quality of life of our citizens, so funding will continue to be of utmost importance.