U.S. representative for District 8 candidate Dave Crooks started the forum by introducing himself and answering the first questions. One questions was, "What will you do to reach across the aisle to work with the opposing party in order to reach a compromise that will help in gridlock at the White House?"
Crooks talked about how state representatives all know each other and are willing to work with one another, whereas on the federal level many of the representatives don't know each other well and sometimes even refuse to even talk to one another.
"That's what's lacking on the federal level," Crooks said. "Everyone wants to go to Washington D.C. to fight, but no one seems to want to get anything accomplished. I think that attitude needs to change. I want to go there to be part of the solution, not part of the problem."
Next, each Indiana representative introduced himself including: District 46 candidates Bob Heaton and Jim Mann, District 42 candidates Alan Morrison and Mark Spelbring, and District 44 candidates Jim Baird and Richard Thompson.
The first question asked of the state candidates involved their thoughts on charter schools and home schooling.
Morrison said he felt school choice and competition are extremely important and he fully supports home schooling.
"Families being able to choose what school works for them is a great tool to have," Morrison said.
Spelbring said he believed in specific situations charter schools are needed; however, he said the regulations are "too loose."
He felt improvements should be made to public schools, if possible, before choosing charter schools.
Baird supports charter schools and believed it is a good idea for students to have to attend a public school for at least one year before switching to a charter school.
"In that one year's time, both the parents and the children get an opportunity to take a view on how that school performs for them," Baird said. "Then they get to make the choice on what is best for them."
Thompson is against charter schools, believing public schools should be fixed and improved instead.
He said charter schools take money from public schools.
Mann was also against charter schools, believing they take money from public schools.
He also said he believes those who home school their children should not get a tax break.
Heaton said he represents all of Indiana, not just his district. He believed charter schools have a purpose and are needed, if not locally, at least for other children within the state.
The next topic the candidates spoke on was county roads.
Baird said he believed there is a need for long-term commitment to roads and bridges.
He said representatives should focus on commitment and dedicate themselves to getting funds for county roads.
Thompson believed tax dollars should be used to fix issues right the first time rather than having multiple temporary fixes that use more tax money.
Spelbring believed it comes down to two things: Money and the quality of work able to be performed.
He said the state has additional money available and one of the options is to give it to counties to do roadwork, but there are a couple options to help maintain roads and streets.
Morrison he fully supports the Indiana Gas Tax Plan, which has two components. First, $143.6 million in annual budgeted non-transportation appropriations would be moved from the state's Motor Vehicle Account to the state General Fund.
Second, gas tax dollars would be dedicated back to what they were originally meant for, which was construction and maintenance.
According to Morrison, this plan would give counties a funding increase of 40 percent.
"Indianapolis has our money, we just need to figure out how to make it work for us in the most efficient manner," Morrison said.
Mann talked about the Eel River Bridge on State Road 46 and how citizens want to see it opened.
He stated that the roads school buses use should be the first priority.
"We should be able to take pride in our roads and bridges," he said.
Heaton told audience members that the Eel River Bridge is a historical bridge, meaning there is a lot of red tape when making repairs and repairs or having the bridge torn down has to be done a certain way.
He explained that he would like to eventually see the bridge donated to Rails for Trails and put a new bridge in.
Next, the candidates spoke on the topic of property taxes.
Both Spelbring and Mann said they need to find out what is used to determine the assessment value and what trending is being used.
Thompson explained that property is assessed at market value, but didn't agree with it.
Heaton and Morrison both believed action needed to be taken.
Heaton said nothing could be done about the issue unless the representatives heard an outcry from the public.
"It starts with you," he said to the audience.
Morrison said something must be done at the state level or the assessment values would keep increases causing taxes to increase.
Baird and Spelbring clarified the issue more. Baird explained that everyone has 45 days to appeal their assessment value, which is based on market value.
He said agricultural land is assessed on a productivity factor, which is based on the soil type of the land.
Spelbring explained the farm system of evaluating the land value is based on a six-year average.
He said working off a long-term average is why the values keep increasing.
Editor's Note: The completion of the Thursday candidate forum will appear in the Saturday, September 29, 2012, issue of The Brazil Times.