BEND, OR -- Candidates for House District 53, Jack Zika and Eileen Kiely, and one candidate for District 54, Cheri Helt, debated the issues at a Bend Chamber forum, Tuesday evening. Helt's Democratic opponent Nathan Boddie did not attend. The candidates were asked about corporate taxes, Central Oregon's wildfire problem, funding higher education and PERS.
Kiely and Zika disagree on how to reform the Public Employee Retirement System (PERS). Kiely told the crowd, "We are already making the cuts that we need to make, but without increasing revenue, we'll keep cutting the vital services that we're looking for." Zika responded, "So, unlike my opponent, I do not believe we need to raise taxes. I believe that we have more revenue now coming to the state than we've ever had. There are cuts that can be made."
The two also disagreed on whether to increase corporate taxes. "I think businesses already pay their fair share," said Zika, "You don't want to burden businesses with regulation and taxes. We're already burdening them enough." He thinks Cap and Trade is a hidden sales tax that will close area businesses, but Kiely calls it capitalism, "It provides an investment fund for small businesses to make the clean up so they can stay competitive."
Both agree affordable housing is a huge problem, but not on how to fix it. Kiely says, "The first thing we need to do is pass Measure 102, which will actually help the local governments raise money for these kinds of projects." But, Zika says, "If you tax people to make affordable housing, you're creating unaffordable housing for everyone who's paying that tax! that is a horrible idea! I don't know why anybody would support that."
District 54 candidate Helt, who has served for eight years on the school board, says she has worked toward finding solutions for the affordable housing crisis by helping construction companies qualify for grants. "It would be nice if we had a quick, easy fix to fix our affordable housing crisis, but I think it's really important that we work together as a community to solve our affordable housing crisis." Helt says she's looking forward to being Central Oregon's next independent-thinking and inclusive representative, because she knows that only by working together will things improve, "It's really important that we're here and we're listening, and this is how we're going to get the change that we want."