Patch caught up with Josh Belinfante, one of the hopeful Republican nominees for the District 6 State Senate seat and asked him about some of this election's important issues.
What are the three most important issues facing District 6 and how are they unique from the rest of the state?
First I would say the three most important issues are bringing jobs back to and keeping the jobs we have in District 6. I think the two biggest threats to that right now are the questions on the state budget. Number one the potential $40.8 million liability if we expand Medicaid along the lines of Obamacare. The ways we’re going to have to pay for that in terms of what it will do to our education system and our tax structure could be very job threatening.
My answer to that is to say no. I don’t want to expand and I’d vote against expanding the Medicaid budget. I think it would be bad for the health care system, I think it would be bad for the budget and I think there are better ways to make health care more affordable and accessible.
The second challenge along with that in terms of what are we going to do for jobs is similar, but still distinct. We’re already facing a budget deficit of two percent and we’re going to have to find a way to address that in a state that already spends less per capita while maintaining a Triple A bond rating. How we react to those challenges are going to in many way determine what we can do for jobs going forward.
Third, I think there’s a growing cynicism out there in terms of what happens at our state capitol. I think ethics reform is something that we need to promote. That’s why, even though I haven’t signed the plegde, I support the $100 gift cap legislation. I’ll impose it on myself whether that becomes a law or not and I want to give the Ethics Commission the tools it needs both in law and in budget to do its jobs.
I don’t think those are really all that different from what impacts the state, but here in this district we’ve got five hospitals. So what we decide on health care in particular is going to have a tremendous impact on the nurses, the support staff, the physicians, the administrators. There are a lot of health care-related people in this district so it may hit them more acutely than in some parts of the state.
As a former educator, what are your thoughts on charter schools?
I support charter schools and the reason I support them is because they allow a school system to create its own rules that aren’t necessarily handed top down by the state. I don’t think charter schools are a “one size fits all” or a panacea. I think they’re a good option to have, so I support them, but I also support our traditional schools. I think one of the things that had made some charter schools exceptional is that freedom to create their own curriculum, create their own issues in terms of how they’ll operate the school. And I would like to see that environment replicated in all our schools.
When I taught I taught at an independent school, so I didn’t have to worry about compliance with this state regulation and or compliance with that state regulation. My focus could be solely on kids in the classroom. That’s the environment I’d like to replicate.
What’s your position on TSPLOST?
My position is that individual voters should decide if it improves their commute or not and then they should base their vote one whether it’s good for their commute or the region as a whole.
For me, in my commute, two of the biggest projects are right where I live and work so that part I like. If I were in the Senate in 2010, I would have voted against the bill and the reason I would have done that is there’s a provision that allows some SPLOST money to go toward “economic development” and I don’t think economic development is necessarily traffic congestion relief. I think if we had made it more about traffic congestion you wouldn’t have a lot of the criticism that’s out there.
But at the end of the day, it’s undeniable that we have to do something about transportation. This is the plan put before voters right now and I will respect the voters decisions to make up their own minds.
Something businesses small and large are facing with now are incredibly increasing health care costs. That’s placing a burden on many employers and employees. One of the things—and I think that’s why in some ways it’s a hidden tax on our businesses and that’s another reason I think if we just lower the cost of health insurance overall those companies will have more capital to do what they need to do.
What made you want to run for office?
I think the challenges that we’re going to face next year and beyond are real and significant. I’ve faced them before and we’ve weathered the storm before and it’s interesting. It may sounds somewhat hokey, but when the Supreme Court’s decision came out and this $40.8 billion is kind of sitting there on the table, that really invigorated me because it’s one of the few times in the General Assembly that we’re going to have an opportunity to say no to increasing federal debt.
Federal debt is one of the things that concerns me most about the direction of the country. It concerns me for my kids. My main purpose is to make sure they can have at least as good a life as I’ve had and maybe even better. I’m concerned that if we keep spending and spending that dream for them is going to go further and further out of reach.