Health care, taxes focus of Malone-Tate forum

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 106 views 

Arkansas Rep. Stephanie Malone, R-Fort Smith, and opponent Doris Tate (D) faced off in a League of Women Voters (LWV) Candidate Forum at the Golden Corral in Fort Smith on Monday (Oct. 8).

The candidates made their cases for the Arkansas House of Representatives District 77 position to be determined at the Nov. 6 general election.

Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the half-cent temporary sales tax increase for roads and infrastructure, and the state budget were in the field of play representing ideological differences between the two candidates.

For Malone, the direction of Arkansas is clear: lower taxes, less wasteful spending and less government.

“We can’t keep continuing to expand our government. We have to look at, not every single agency, but start looking where we are and making some cuts. We have to,” she said.

Specifically Malone said she would like to see a more efficient healthcare system and that “there are different ways to look at it.”

“I can’t remember if it’s 10 free doctor visits or what it is there, but we need to look at that, and we need to look at prescription costs. For example, did they buy generic or did they not buy generic? And we need to look at overall costs in general and say, ‘Okay, we can make some cuts here.’ Not necessarily cuts in care but say, ‘Okay, if you’re not buying a generic, buy the generic.’ It’s about cutting back from an $8 prescription to $4. We certainly need to look at things like that. Again, not cuts in care.”

Malone continued: “But let’s say do a co-pay. Why not have someone pay just $10? It’s not out of the realm of possibility for health care. We understand that costs have gone up over the last couple of years, and I think if you do have things like a $10 co-pay, people are going to quit going (to the doctor) an unlimited amount of times.”

Tate acknowledged that the new federal health care law is a hard-sell in Arkansas in comments after the event, but ultimately voiced her support of the controversial healthcare plan.

“The concept, I agree with,” Tate said. “It won’t be accomplished without the debate between Republicans and Democrats coming together in a united front. It takes three-fourths of the House in order to pass that kind of legislation, so it’s going to be a matter of working together with the legislature, and at that time in the debate trying to understand every aspect of it.”

Malone was troubled by the far-reaching implications of ACA and said the legislature will “do the best we can” in the event that the healthcare law is not repealed.

“The Governor (Beebe) said, ‘We’ll try it for two years and if it doesn’t work, we’ll go back to the old way.’ Then the question becomes, as you expand it out and take it back and you have all these Arkansans, who are left out there with no care: What do you do then? You’ve already expanded it and created this monster. At some point, the state has to take some responsibility.”

Malone also differed with her opponent on the issue of taxes, stating that she would not support a half-cent sales tax increase to fund the $1.8 billion highway improvement package, but that she did support the “people’s right to vote on the issue.” Malone voted for the legislation that authorized voter consideration of the half-cent sales tax hike.

Malone believes Arkansas should cut capital gains taxes and the manufacturing and utilities tax. She was also supportive of reductions in the grocery tax and the tax-free holiday. Tate admitted she was not for “more taxation if it is not being well-spent,” but that “roads and infrastructure is a well-spent tax.”

“I have to be progressive. I have to vote in a manner that I feel like enhances roads for the state of Arkansas. It is too important for our economic development not to support it,” Tate said.