District 18 Republican state senate candidates Jeff Dial and Tom Morrissey discussed Common Core standards, Medicaid, job growth and legislative pay increase during a forum hosted by the East Valley Tribune on July 11.
Dial, who currently is a state representative for District 18, said he is running because he is frustrated with the state of affairs in Arizona; he thinks he can do a better job than current senators and wants to make the state a place to grow a family.
Morrissey, a former chief deputy with the U.S. Marshals Service, said he considers himself to be an ordinary citizen and an agent of change.
“The change that we need to experience, needs to come from the bottom up,” he said.
He added, “I know where the bodies are buried,” to describe his knowledge of the inner workings of state government.
The candidates were asked to discuss measures aimed to accelerate job growth in Arizona. Morrissey said the state needs to create and maintain a friendly business environment and create a proper tax environment, generate better schools and eliminate the state income tax and corporate tax.
“It’s not just bringing people to the state, it’s bringing industry,” he said.
Dial said the area needs to attract more high-quality jobs.
“When we focus on high-quality jobs we have to worry less about people coming on to public services,” he said.
Dial also said the education system is essential to the community and needs to continue making improvements; higher-education students should graduate in five years, children need to read by the third grade and money should go directly to schools’ needs rather than bureaucracies.
In regards to Common Core standards and the state’s decision to cancel Arizona’s membership with the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test, Dial and Morrissey spoke of the standards they believe schools should uphold.
“You want to have high expectations and you want to have great teachers. If you have those two things, everything else is kind of paperwork and busywork,” Dial said.
Local control, rather than “federal overreach” of the education system was another point Dial emphasized and said coordination between parents, teachers and administrators is the best way to improve the school system.
Morrissey said he opposes Common Core, calling it “creeping socialism.”
“It is disastrous to our education system. It’s an overreach by the federal government that’s being allowed,” he said.
Rather, Morrissey said school districts should hire and hold accountable good teachers and principals, eliminating the time allocated to reporting student success as defined by Common Core. Morrissey said he has relations who are retired teachers and has talked to a number of educators to form the base of his policy.
The candidate were asked about Gov. Jan Brewer’s contentious approval to expand Medicaid.
The decision was made in the dark of night, Morrissey said, and “that’s not the way we do business in Arizona.” He said the decision immortalized “Obamacare” in Arizona and transferred hospital costs to taxpayers, causing exorbitant fees.
“You can’t solve problems by throwing money and I understand there is a problem with funding our health care … but there may be better ways of doing it,” Morrissey said.
Dial said the state had to choose between two options for Medicaid funding; drain the state’s rainy-day fund or accept federal funds. As the state was already using federal funds and rainy-day money would soon be depleted, Dial said he felt the decision was easy, but not fun, and it was the fiscally conservative thing to do.
“It was absolutely the right decision,” Dial said, “the voters in ’96 and 2000 told the state we were going to fund Medicaid.”
This is the free-market way to do it, Dial said, as “we have the fourth-lowest-cost program in the nation.”
The adequacy of legislative pay will be determined by voters this year as an $11,000 pay increase for lawmakers will appear on the ballot. Dial said he said he is fine with the pay as is but added it is up to the voters to decide the issue, while Morrissey said he believes pay should not increase as the position should be for the honor, not the money.
At the end of the debate, the candidates had the opportunity to summarize their campaigns.
“I will go beyond the scope of throwing money at problems, I will look for solutions,” Morrissey said, adding that leaders must emerge to find solutions and should not be afraid of being controversial and speaking out. He also said citizens and lawmakers need to embrace the constitution to find a solution for the recent influx of immigrants.
Dial said he is happy with what he has been doing with education and directing funds directly to the classroom but says he is frustrated with border control and human trafficking and that the state needs to further address those problems.
“When you’re looking at those things we’re accomplishing, we’re making Arizona more competitive when it comes to our tax structure here in the state… working on education, working on jobs,” he said.
The primary election is scheduled for Aug. 26. The winner of the Republican primary will face Democrat Janie Hydrick in the general election Nov. 4. District 18 encompasses Ahwatukee, and portions of Tempe, Chandler and Mesa.
Dial is a Chandler resident and was elected to the Arizona House of Representatives in 2010. He is the chairman of the Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee and serves on the Financial Institutions Committee and the Technology and Infrastructure Committee. He was a sponsor for the Arizona Jobs Bill and co-founded the House Jobs Forum.
Morrissey is originally from Brooklyn, N.Y., and moved to Ahwatukee in 1986. He served as the chief deputy U.S. Marshal for Arizona and worked as the chief of the Department of Economic Security’s Office of Special Investigations to stop fraudulent activities committed by individuals and businesses.
Scroll down to "more coverage" to see clips from the forum.
• Sam Gauvain is a junior at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She is an intern with the Tribune this semester. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor's note: The original version of the article had Jeff Dial listed as a representative for District 20 instead of 18. The first version also had Dial saying the pay for legislators should increase.