Chesterton Tribune


Current and former state reps face off in District 4 race

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In the general election on Nov. 6, Republican incumbent State Rep. Ed Soliday will defend his 4th District seat against Democrat Greg Simms. Early voting began on Oct. 9.

The Chesterton Tribune invited both to respond to candidate questionnaires.

The Tribune set word limits and reserved the right to edit for length.

(1) Age, place, occupation.

Soliday: 67, Valparaiso, retired airline pilot and executive.

Simms: 47, Valparaiso, high-school social studies teacher and small business owner.

(2) To Soliday: How many terms have you served and why are you seeking re-election? (75 words) Served three terms seeking a fourth term to continue as a strong voice for Porter County and NW Indiana in the state legislature.

To Simms: Why are you seeking election to this office? (75 words) I am seeking office because I believe in helping people with respect and understanding. I know what it is like to struggle with a young family financially, and I know what it is like to work hard. It is important to help people increase their household income and be able to afford a house, and some nicer things in life. Similarly, I can see and understand both sides of an issue.

(3) To Soliday: Describe your accomplishments in office. (75 words) Accomplishments: Passage of the Illiana Expressway enabling legislation. Authorship and passage of the Little Calumet River Flood Control Maintenance legislation. Shepherding infrastructure and transportation legislation as chairman of the House of Representatives Roads & Transportation Committee.

To Simms: Describe your qualifications for office (75 words) I am qualified for the office because I have been a public servant for 25 years as a teacher, coach, former State Representative, member of many community outreach groups, and a charity organizer. I have also been on many committees over the years that have dealt with social issues, concerns, and problems.

(4) Differentiate yourself from your opponent and indicate why you believe yourself a better candidate. (75 words)

Soliday: I have had many years of experience in facilitating solutions to problems in diverse areas with stakeholders of conflicting points of view. It was my job as an airline safety vice president, as a member and chair of many organizations, and as a House committee chair. My opponent seems to be very focused on education, with limited interest in the full range of issues before the General Assembly.

Simms: I am different from my opponent in many ways. The most notable is my education background. As well as a teaching degree, I have degrees in political science, business, and a Masters’ Degree in special education. I am very knowledgeable in public school affairs. What better person to help reform education, than a current experienced educator?

(5) What are the key issues in the race? (100 words)

Soliday: Key Issues: (a) Creating an environment for excellent job opportunities; (b) Keeping state spending and income in balance; (c) Appropriate support for multiple education opportunities.

Simms: The key issues in the race are: education reforms, workers’ rights, taxes, transparency in government and public services. We need to have all entities of government cooperate and work together for the public good. Through mutual respect and understanding we can get our federal, state, and local officials all working together for the good of the district. We need to look at the new changes in public education reform and keep those that are/will work and revise those that don’t.

(6) What are your views on the best uses of the current state budget surplus? (100 words)

Soliday: The state has taken in more than it’s spent this year. First, we need to make certain that we keep enough reserve to cover a possible future downturn in the economy; second, we need to assesses the massive cuts made to most government agencies to minimize the impact on K-12 education during the recession, when state revenues fell over 15 percent. Third, we need to prepare people for unfilled jobs where new skills are required.

Simms: The current state budget surplus should be used in order to shore up pensions and other accounts that were depleted over the years. It would be nice to return some money to school districts that have been hit hard by the cut backs. We definitely DO NOT want to waste any revenue gained; however, some good programs were cut and should be eligible for another look at funding.

(7) Do you consider the state’s school-funding formula—based on a calculation of “average daily membership” and “free or reduced lunches”—fair? Why or why not? If not, how would you like to see it changed? (75 words)

Soliday: I don’t believe the formula is fair and changes are being made to minimize disruption. Ironically, when local property tax funded schools, the mantra was that counties like Porter had better schools because their property-tax base put more money behind each student. Now the same political powers that cried for a formula that delivered twice as many dollars per student to some schools are decrying weakness in their own formula and blaming it on others.

Simms: The school-funding formula is fair only if it doesn’t discriminate or take any money away from districts. For example: if a school gets credit for a student for ADM and later that student leaves for another public school, then the new school should receive the funds to educate that student. I also hate to see schools punished because their school population has either too many or too little free or reduced lunch recipients.

(8) In January 2010, the state cut the Duneland School Corporation’s General Fund by 4.56 percent or $1,569,219. How would you propose restoring that funding? (75 words)

Soliday: K-12 education in this state receives 56 percent of every state tax dollar. The state’s revenues declined by 15 percent several years ago. Every agency in government was cut severely to minimize the impact upon K-12 during the recession. If the economy improves and revenues stabilize, then I have no doubt that the legislature will increase funding to schools across Indiana, including Chesterton.

Simms: Porter County schools are among the best in the state and to take money from them seems crazy. I oppose giving money to schools just to give it; however, if they’ve earned it through high test scores and graduation rates then they should have all the resources possible for continued success. Our kids are receiving a great education, so why are we being punished by the other school corporations with lower scores?

(9) Are you comfortable with the current Indiana tax structure? Which taxes are best for funding state government, which are worst? (75 words)

Soliday: Our state tax structure is a relatively balanced system of regressive and progressive taxes. No property tax is used to support state government, which is primarily supported by sales, gasoline, income, and other taxes. Sales and income taxes vary with downturns in the economy; hence more stable property taxes usually fund public safety and local government. Accountability is typically greatest when local officials raise taxes for local needs. The worst taxes are those that kill jobs.

Simms: I’m comfortable with the current tax structure as long as it doesn’t change. We do need to find a better way to fund our public schools. Although we need to keep our sales tax low and also offer services to citizens without compromising safety or stability. The best way to ensure a solid tax base is to have as close to full employment as possible, so more people are feeding the system, not taking from it.



Posted 10/12/2012