Published Saturday, February 23, 2013
By SARAH FAY CAMPBELL
Georgia House of Representatives candidates Tom Crymes and David Stover shared their opinions on issues at a candidate forum Thursday at White Oak clubhouse.
The forum, sponsored by the Newnan-Coweta Chamber of Commerce, was moderated by Dean Jackson. Candidates gave opening and closing statements, and answered questions.
The runoff for the Georgia House District 71 seat will be March 5, and early voting begins today at the Coweta Voter Registrar’s office.
The election is to fill the seat vacated by the withdrawal of Robert Stokely, who was elected in 2012 to fill the seat upon the retirement of Billy Horne, R-Sharpsburg. Stover and Crymes were the top two vote-getters in the Feb. 5 special election.
The forum will be broadcast on NuLink Channel 10 three times a day until March 4. The one-hour forum will air at noon, 4 p.m. and 10:30 p.m.
Crymes in his opening statement said he grew up in Columbus and went to Georgia Tech. That experience “taught great discipline. It helped me in all my future endeavors.” He played football as a walk-on and “learned to allocate my time and be passionate about things. It has followed through for the rest of my life.”
He and his wife, a pre-k teacher at Northside Elementary, moved to Coweta in 1994. Crymes became a volunteer firefighter shortly thereafter. “It was a great opportunity to meet the community and step out and see how I could help people.”
Crymes started his commercial construction company in 1997. “We built projects like the city hall for Newnan, some VA clinics, the Piedmont cardiac building, just to name a few. I’m really proud of what we’ve done.”
Stover thanked everyone for coming. “It really means a lot,” he said. “I will not forget that it is what the citizens have to say that matters the most in the state.”
“I promise to listen to the citizens of the county,” Stover said. “I will be of the people and for the people.”
Stover said he will not vote for any laws that create gun registries or require additional fees for purchasing guns. “I promise to work for personal responsibility, liberty and freedom,” Stover said. “The government does not grant our rights. That is something we need to realize. Our rights are granted by God,” he said.
Stover said he won’t vote for laws that don’t apply to everyone equally, or laws that exempt legislators.
Stover gave out his phone number, 404-890-0026, and said he is always available. “I expect your phone calls.”
Candidates were asked how their life and work experience will guide their decision making.
Crymes said in his 17 years as a contractor, he has created many jobs. There’s nothing more fulfilling than having a job that creates jobs, he said. Getting people back to work is the number one focus.
Crymes said he has worked with the county commission and the Chamber, and knows local leaders. “If I find an issue that I am not familiar with [I can go to people like the sheriff and others and ask them their thoughts.]”
“I’m not just going to one side... I’m listening to a wide variety of people,” Crymes said.
“I haven’t worked for anybody since I was 24,” said Stover. “I think I have the skills necessary to manage a budget. I think I have the skills necessary to manage people.” He also has relationships with elected officials, including Congressman Lynn Westmoreland, state Sen. Mike Crane, County Commission Chairman Bob Blackburn and Commissioner Rodney Brooks, Stover said.
“I know the commissioners. Sure, I don’t get along with 100 percent of them. That is going to happen. We’re not going to get along on everything. ... While we may not agree on all the issues I will listen to them,” he said.
They were asked what Georgia can do to attract more business and industry.
Georgia has a balanced budget and AAA bond rating. “What Georgia says counts,” said Crymes. “And we can attract real business to come here because of that.”
We are a strong state and a strong county with a good workforce, “especially in this area,” Crymes said.
Georgia has one of the least regulated business environments in the country, said Stover. “We have one the strongest business environments ... we’re in the top 10 right now,” Stover said. “I would like to take us to number one. We can get there.”
As for the state’s balanced budget, “the problem is we use bonds to purchase property, we use bonds to build stadiums, we use bonds to do all sorts of things in the state. So the balanced budget is a little bit of a misnomer,” Stover said.
State revenues have fallen drastically in the past few years, and the candidates were asked about their state budget priorities.
“I think we have to get rid of waste, fraud and abuse,” Stover said. The state’s Medicaid program is greatly abused, he said. Not by the patients, but by the providers. “They are triple billing. We need to go after these providers,” he said.
He’d also like to go after food stamp fraud. “You can take a [EBT] card into a liquor store and purchase food items,” Stover said. He doesn’t think food stamp cards should be used in convenience stores either.
Georgia needs to embrace the Fair Tax sales tax program, he said. “It will increase our revenues,” Stover said. Everyone will be paying taxes, including illegal aliens and people making money in an illegal manner.
The Fair Tax is a great idea, Crymes said, but “it is going to take a lot of extensive research to make it work.”
The state needs to be paying attention to its spending. Waste can be identified, he said. The state doesn’t need to deal with the issue by raising taxes.
State revenue problems will be “alleviated when jobs are created,” Crymes said.
He added he’s glad the legislature stepped back from considering public funding for a new Falcons stadium.
“The Fair Tax is the most well-researched tax plan there is,” said Stover during his rebuttal. It has been used in other countries and it works, he said. “It’s more well researched than our current tax code. Our current tax code is a convoluted mess of mismatched” regulations that favor one group while taking from another group. “We’ve got to cut this stuff out,” Stover said. “The Fair Tax will fix that problem.”
Candidates were asked their thoughts on the hospital provider fee — aka the bed tax, as well as the expansion of Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act — aka Obamacare.
The bed tax, which helps fund the state’s Medicaid program, is a necessary evil, Crymes said. His concern is that legislation just passed puts the fee in the hands of the Department of Community Health — which is not accountable to voters.
“But it is in place so that is where we are going,” Crymes said.
Georgia should be very reluctant when it comes to Obamacare, he said. Obamacare is a tax but not thought out well. There are so many facets “we’re just now beginning to understand the bill,” he said. “Let’s be slow and patient.”
“Health care is a vial asset that we need to take care of and we need to address. But we need to take care of it in a way that is responsible,” Crymes said.
Stover said Chapter 5 of the IRS tax code deals with implementing Obamacare. “In many ways, it’s a really disgusting thing,” he said. There are taxes on truck bodies, fishing tackle and tires that are used to fund Obamacare, he said.
“There are better methods of fixing the health care system. An 1,800-page debacle is not the way to do it,” Stover said. “We need to nullify Obamacare.”
The bed tax bill originated in the Senate; any taxation bills must, by law, originate in the House. The bed tax bill should have been a House bill, he said.
The candidates were asked about the defeat of the Transportation Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax and what should be done to fund transportation.
“Here in Coweta we are funding it” through the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax, said Stover. “We’ve got money for transportation here.” He thinks the TPLOST legislation needs to be repealed. “It’s a bad bill,” he said. Especially the penalty for regions that didn’t pass it.
“You can’t penalize somebody because they don’t pass a tax on themselves,” Stover said. “That is the most disgusting thing I’ve ever seen in government,” except maybe for Obamacare, he said.
“There are better ways to fund transportation,” he said. The gas tax is the state’s third largest source of revenue. “We’ve got money,” Stover said. The state needs to be responsible and use it on the right projects, with the right contractors.
Crymes said he was a very vocal opponent of TSPLOST and agrees that the penalty is wrong. As for repealing TSPLOST in its entirely, “you’ve got to take into account what happened to the counties that did put it in place,” Crymes said. “Nothing is ever simple. It was a bad bill when it started and should have never come out for a vote. But it did.”
“We’ve got to figure out transportation,” Crymes said, and the state is going to have to be more creative.
Stover said he is proud that he “led the charge against TSPLOST” in the area.
The bill does need to be repealed. The counties that approved it can switch to a SPLOST, he said.
The last question centered on what personality or character trait the candidates feel is most important for a legislator.
Stover said it is an attitude of openness and willingness to listen.
“I am willing to listen to anybody,” he said. “You’re not always going to agree with what I say... if we talk, there is common ground. Let’s find that common ground,” he said. “I can do that, that is the type of person I am.”
“I am not a combative person. I’m a very happy-go-lucky guy,” Stover said. “People call me too laid back, sometimes.”
“I can speak to the citizens. I have no problem listening, I have no problem finding out what it is they are concerned about,” Stover said. “I think you’ll find that I am quite the people person if you come and get to know me.”
“I will bring 17 years of job-creating business experience,” said Crymes. In his business “we deal with all sorts of issues day in and day out. We listen to all the different moving parts. You hear all the info, you make the best decisions with what you’ve got,” he said.
“I know how to create jobs. I’ve created hundreds of them and watched them being created,” Crymes said.
He has the ability to listen to what people say and make the best possible decisions, he said.
“I will reach out to people on all sides so that I can figure out what the answer is, so that I can represent this district in the right way,” Crymes said. “I will listen to everyone.”