Taxes, wages and infrastructure were some of the top issues discussed by two candidates seeking to represent the 9th District of Indiana in Congress.
Republican Trey Hollingsworth and Democrat Shelli Yoder squared off Wednesday afternoon in a debate hosted by the Greater Greenwood Chamber.
Hollingsworth, a business owner from Jeffersonville, touted his private-sector experience. This is his first run for a political office. He called for less government regulations, more accountability over spending taxpayer dollars and bringing back business sense to Washington.
Yoder, a Bloomington resident and instructor at Indiana University, said she wanted to bring good jobs, safe roads and broadband internet access to Indiana residents. Yoder previously ran for the Congressional seat.
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Johnson County is at the top of the 9th District, which extends south to the Ohio River and encompasses another dozen counties. The candidates are vying to replace U.S. Rep. Todd Young, a Republican who is not seeking re-election and is running for the Senate.
Hollingsworth and Yoder both emphasized the importance of infrastructure, but neither favored any raise to the national gas tax, which was last set at 18.4 cents a gallon in 1993.
The potential for the Highway Trust Fund to become insolvent in the next several years is a serious concern, but addressing it by simply raising the gas tax would be shortsighted, Yoder said.
“We should be celebrating the fact that we have more fuel-efficient cars that are using less gas and working hard to become less reliant on fossil fuels,” she said.
The answer is more local solutions, as regional stakeholders work together to address infrastructure challenges. More mass transit in the Indianapolis region should be considered, Yoder said.
Hollingsworth said that funding issues should first be addressed by making sure tax dollars are being spent appropriately. Before the government raises taxes, it needs to prove that it is using existing funds effectively, he said.
The government fails that test, Hollingsworth said.
Both candidates also discussed new rules for salaried employees, which they said pose problems for businesses.
New U.S. Department of Labor overtime rules will go into effect in December that require an employee to earn least $47,476 annually, an increase from the current rate of $23,600, in order to be exempt from being paid overtime.
Hollingsworth called the pay change unnecessary government intrusion.
“Why would the government feel the need to insert itself in a business decision between employees and employers,” he said.
Yoder supported the increase, but said it should have been done incrementally.
“This kind of change, this quickly, is going to have a very devastating impact,” she said.
Here is where candidates for Indiana’s 9th congressional district seat, Trey Hollingsworth, R, and Shelli Yoder, D, stand on other issues discussed in the debate.
The future of the Affordable Healthcare Act
Hollingsworth: The law needs to be repealed and replaced with a free-market system in which insurance agencies can compete across state lines.
Yoder: The health care law has benefited millions of Americans, but fixes, such as eliminating the medical device tax and Cadillac Tax, are needed.
Universal background checks for gun owners
Hollingsworth: Was recently endorsed by the National Rifle Association. The rights afforded to all Americans through the Second Amendment should be protected.
Yoder: Universal background checks and the Second Amendment aren’t incompatible with each other.
Increasing the minimum wage
Hollingsworth: Increasing the minimum wage distorts the economy. The only way for wages to grow is to grow the economy, which means less government involvement, not more.
Yoder: A living wage and economic growth are not incompatible. Another challenge is making sure students receive the right education so they are prepared to enter the workforce.
Interstate 69 construction delays in Section 5, from Bloomington to Martinsville
Hollingsworth: Part of the problem is that the government isn’t held to the same standards as the private sector. “We have politicians who aren’t used to budgeting, and we’ve got private parties who aren’t held accountable,” he said.
Yoder: Supports public private partnerships as a way to fund infrastructure projects, but said Section 5 of I-69 is a debacle and that the partnership for this project is a mess.