Three Republican candidates are seeking the party’s nomination for the District 36 House seat vacated this summer by Tax Collector Mike Fasano.
The three candidates are James Mathieu, chairman of the local Republican Executive Committee, Bill Gunter, a Presbyterian minister and newcomer Jeromy Harding.
The district comprises coastal Pasco County, west of Little Road. Only registered Republicans are eligible to vote in the Sept. 17 primary. Early voting will continue through Saturday at the West Pasco Government Center. The winner will face Democrat Amanda Murphy in a special election Oct. 15.
Q: Do you agree with Gov. Rick Scott’s position that Florida should accept federal funding to expand Medicaid and to create health insurance exchanges? If not, how do you propose to improve health coverage for Florida’s 3.8 million uninsured residents?
Answer: (Gunter) No. Because when you dig down, it doesn’t even solve the problem of providing lower income people with quality health care outcomes. Medicaid is broken. It’s rife with fraud. There’s no access. And health care outcomes are the worst of any health care delivery system. But saying no is not acceptable. We must find an answer, and it’s moving heath care to a model of direct relationship between the purchaser and the provider. You do this with giving individuals real control over the health care spending.
Answer: (Harding) Need more time to give a full answer on this; I have not been able to look at a budget for this. I am typically in favor of more state control and not federal programs. There is too much waste in the federal program.
Answer: (Mathieu) I oppose Obamacare. However, until it can or will be repealed, we must address the issue. Accepting federal funding with a guarantee of no unfunded mandate for several years is enticing. However, the future exposure and financial commitment is open ended. Improving our economy and getting our citizens jobs will ease much of the pressure. To improve health coverage for Floridians requires competition and choice in the marketplace.
Q. What do you think needs to be done to “fix” Citizens Insurance?
Answer: (Gunter) In Pasco Citizen’s isn’t the insurer of last resort, it’s the insurer of only resort for most of us. Why, two reasons: hurricanes and old homes, and sinkholes. If we want to move to fix insurance, we have to end the sinkhole craziness. We mandate on the state level to fix the sinkhole and stabilize the home. Well fixing the sinkhole can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars whereas stabilizing the home can be as low as 25,000. If we end the fix the sinkhole mandate, we could see companies coming back into Pasco. Furthermore, the concept you can pump millions of tons of grout into a swiss-cheese ground and it doesn’t move or disappear or hurt the aquifer is silliness. Finally, we must keep the cap rate increases as is because I do not believe you can simply rip something away from people that have relied on this insurance coverage for years.
Answer: (Harding) Bring back competition, and insure homes to their true cost to rebuild (not market value) this would lower everyone’s premiums here.
Answer: (Mathieu) There is no easy solution to “fix” Citizens. Approximately a decade ago the state Legislature created Citizens to address an insurance premium problem. This was a short-term solution. Those that created it in the Legislature are long gone. Allowing the state of Florida to enter a private marketplace is not in the interests of either business or the citizens of Florida.
No exit strategy was developed. If Citizens is to remain an insurance provider of last resort, the risks must be spread on a statewide basis. Citizens is a state insurance company not a private company. With western Pasco County the sink hole center of the state, benefit for local citizens would ensue.
Ultimately, Citizens must go. Appropriate legislation defining coverage’s, regulating sinkhole claims, strict auditing of “expenses” before any rate increase application, strict limits on rate increases and support of an open free market will help.
Lastly, a thorough investigation of all state legislators who have an interest as a vendor for Citizens must be done. This needs to start at the top.
Q. Are there any divisions of state government that should be privatized or outsourced? If so, which one(s)?
Answer: (Gunter) It’s something that should be asked each and every year but isn’t. If we did, I can guarantee you we’ll find programs, divisions, maybe even agencies that have outlived their purpose.
Answer: (Harding) I believe that most government services should be privatized. Competition drives cost down for taxpayers/consumers.
Answer: (Mathieu) I support privatization, when practical and appropriate, of certain governmental functions. The state government performs many ministerial functions which technology has offered solutions which are of low cost. Many of these functions should be privatized. Why should our state government invest in developing technology (especially billing, information services etc…) when the private sector has spent the necessary funds and developed such expertise. These can be privatized.
Major functions such as the Department of Corrections can be problematic because of numerous federal and state laws regarding civil rights. However, routine incarceration, juveniles detention, lower drug offenses may be appropriate for such privatization
Q. Should Florida abandon “Common Core?” Please explain.
Answer: (Gunter) We need to make sure we get this right. We should seek to have the highest standards in the world and then hold our education establishment accountable on meeting those goals. If that’s a Florida set of standards then, I’d support it. I think we must look at it all and figure which standards achieve the greatest outcomes for our school children. When we put student achievement first, and it’s real and measured, everyone wins.
Answer: (Harding) Yes, I think Common Core would have been OK as a state program, but it is put in place on a federal level. We need more money to a classroom level and less money juggling between federal/state/county.
Answer: (Mathieu) As president of a non-profit public charter school, I am familiar with Common Core. I support standardized testing, however, I am extremely skeptical of the implementation of Common Core standards. Once every state has implemented Common Core the federal government will be able to match apples vs. apples. It will be the beginning of a National School Board.
Regretfully, funds collected and spent at the federal level will not be effective when received at the local level. It will be eaten up by the bureaucracy and inefficient, wasteful implementation, as most federal programs.
I believe in local control and accountability. Educational services are best delivered, and funds best spent, at the local level where close scrutiny of the expenditures and implementation of programs can be had.
Q. What is your position on Florida’s Stand Your Ground law?
Answer: (Gunter) I totally support it.
Answer: (Harding) There is nothing wrong with the stand your ground law.
Answer: (Mathieu) I fully support the Stand Your Ground Law. Presently, the law does not provide for its exact implementation. Whether the affirmative defense is set forth in a separate hearing, jury instructions etc... was ignored at the time of passage. Rest assured our liberal Florida Supreme Court will pass procedural and substantive rules to water down this law. We need to “tweak” the law now in advance of these liberal changes which the Supreme Court of Florida will implement. Every Floridian has a right to Stand their Ground.
Q. Should Florida follow the lead of states like Texas and North Dakota to enact restrictions on abortion access?( ie. Require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals or require clinics to meet surgical center standards?)
GUNTER: I’m pro-life, but what you’ve asked is a medical issue. Every law we pass should make sure that all patients are provided the highest level standard of care from all medical providers. Would any of us support even a tooth extraction in an inferior surgical center or allow a doctor who has no admission privileges at any hospital to work on our family members. No. If this is occurring in Florida it needs to be addressed.
HARDING: Abortions should not be legal, except for medical or criminal reasons. I do not support convenience abortions. But this is a state issue not a federal issue.
MATHIEU: Personally, I oppose abortion. The safety of the mother as well as a viable fetus must be addressed. Simultaneously, any laws governing abortion providers, such as admitting privileges at a local hospital or clinic to meet surgical center standards must be based in sound medical research.
Q. As state funding for higher education is reduced, colleges and universities are raising tuition, placing a greater burden on parents and students. What, if anything, should the state Legislature be doing to keep college affordable?
GUNTER: We need to create laws that let the money flow where the measurements, standards, and accountability are best. We need to allow the free market and competition to balance out the tuition rates. This is happening now as we speak. In the next decade you’ll be able to get a college degree without ever leaving your home. It will be more accessible and cheaper and still have quality instruction. What we need to do as a state is prepare for this wave.
HARDING: No response
MATHIEU: No simple answer to keeping college tuition affordable. You get nothing for nothing. I am not a proponent of funds for new buildings and campuses, but believe that an educational institution must be clean, safe and wholesome. This is where the focus should be. We need accountability at the college level for the expenditure of the funds presently in their care. Yes, technology funding must be embraced as it is the future. However, we must measure results from the expenditure.