- Thomas, Eitel square off on campaign claims, taxes
A political forum hosted by Farm Bureau and The Brazil Times featured a variety of candidates and touched on a variety of issues. Topics inclued the proposed waste transfer station and property taxes. It was held Thursday night at the Clay County Fairgrounds.
The first hour of the two-hour event was dedicated to state candidates. Six candidates for state offices spoke, featuring District 44 Representative candidate Ken Eitel (R) and incumbent Rep. Andy Thomas (R).
After brief speeches from State Senate candidates Kristin Szczerbik and Vern Tincher, unopposed Democratic 44th District candidate Eric Wolfe, and Gubernatorial candidate Mitch Daniels representative Andy Haan, Eitel and Thomas were allowed to give short opening comments.
Eitel, a Putnam County businessman, said that if elected, he'd take an approach familiar to him.
"I support a businesslike approach to tax restructuring," he said.
Thomas spoke mostly on what he thought were "unethical" claims on his voting record by Eitel's campaign.
"Mr. Eitel must be behind in the polls," he said. "I passed more bills than any other freshman in the legislature... it's hard."
Moderator Frank Phillips then took written questions from the 114-member audience, giving the candidates two minutes each to answer. Gay marriage was the first topic.
"There comes a time when you have to stand up for what you believe in," Thomas, who is against gay marriage, said, referring to the walkout he and other Republican House members performed during debates on gay marriage. "Yes, we did walk out. We could have stayed out the whole session but we didn't. We still got a lot done."
Eitel agreed with Thomas, adding that marriage should stay "as it has been since creation."
The next question involved the implementation of a home tax instead of a blanket tax for a county-wide library system.
Eitel said that alternative funding should be secured to get the system up and running.
"We shouldn't do anything to raise taxes at this point," he said. "We should wait until things are more stable, find some other funds."
Thomas said it was a multi-faceted issue.
"This is an issue that each township has to agree to," he said. "If a township doesn't want to join, they shouldn't have to."
The hotly debated proposed waste transfer station on SR 59 was another topic of discussion. Thomas said he did not want anything of that nature in Clay County.
"I'm tired of getting dumped on, and that's what this station is for," he said.
Eitel was in agreement.
"These types of developments don't help anyone," he said. "You must put in place local guidelines or you're going to get more landfills."
A question on property tax narrowly avoided becoming an argument. Eitel said his approach would apply to this issue.
"When you look at taking away a property tax, you need to look at it in a businesslike manner," he said.
Thomas took his time to rebuff accusations that he wanted to raise income and sales taxes.
"I am proposing to replace the property tax with income and sales taxes," he said. "It is unethical for (Eitel) to say that I want to raise taxes."
Corruption in various government agencies also came up.
"There's scandal after scandal," Thomas said. "Almost every agency in this state... there's corruption. As a lawyer and deputy prosecutor I feel that I am prepared to look into this type of thing. We need to analyze government agencies."
"We need to elect a republican governor," Eitel said. "We need to eliminate these layers of bureaucracy and do it with that businesslike approach."
After a few more questions, the two were allowed a brief summation.
"I've enjoyed being your state representative for that last year and a half," he said. "I'm looking forward to bringing money back home. That's not just Clay County, that's my whole district.
"When you've found someone to bring back money, you keep him. I feel like I've been training my whole life for this job," Thomas continued.
"I would like to institute quality of life roundtables," Eitel said during his closing words. "The money Rep. Thomas has brought to you has restrictions on it... I want to work with you to help the district."
Primary voting will take place next Tuesday.