Debate over a controversial fire district law was put aside Wednesday as District 22 legislative candidates hit on other topics important to voters, such as the hiring of illegal immigrants and tax cuts.
Although a core issue for the candidates is a law that would have required Gilbert to provide fire service to county islands, it wasn’t the focus of Wednesday’s debate sponsored by the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce and held at Chandler-Gilbert Community College. Much of it centered on business-related issues.
“A big issue we’re looking at is tax reform,” said Kathy Langdon, the chamber’s president. “We had some good things happen this year. Now, we’re meeting with chambers across the state.”
District 22 primarily covers Gilbert but also parts of Mesa, Apache Junction and Gold Canyon.
Sen. Thayer Verschoor and Reps. Andy Biggs and Eddie Farnsworth — all Republicans — are running for reelection. Challengers in the Senate race are Republican Joe Bedgood and Democrat Glenn Ray. Republicans Karl Kohlhoff and Terri Tobey are running for the House.
Most candidates said they’d like to see lower taxes, with the three incumbents lauding this year’s temporary cuts to property taxes, which they said they hoped to make permanent along with more tax cuts. Tobey said she would like to keep all taxes as low as possible.
Bedgood, though, said he prefers tax cuts that don’t harm schools and cities, and Ray said he would like education or health care better funded before tax cuts are made. Kohlhoff said he supported cuts but also would like to increase the rainy day fund for state emergencies or deficits.
When asked about the hiring of illegal immigrants, most said they wouldn’t support sanctions against businesses. Bedgood said the federal government’s database system that tracks immigrants has failed, while Biggs and Verschoor said that only employers who knowingly hire illegal workers should be held accountable.
Tobey and Ray suggested using some sort of an electronic database and ID cards to track legal workers in the state. Ray suggested that such cards could even be used to track health conditions.
Farnsworth said business owners take their own risks, but have a right to decide who is best for their company, as long as no laws are broken. Kohlhoff said all businesses should ensure workers are legal.