Three candidates for the Fifth District, State House of Representatives, all had different opinions about a universal health-care program being considered by the state Legislature.

At Thursday night’s political forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Meadville Area at the Meadville City Building, Democrat Jason White, Republican incumbent John Evans and Libertarian Edward Tonkin gave views of a variety of subjects. Independent Scott Rastetter did not participate.

Prefacing his statement with the observation that the state must get involved in talking about health care, White said the bill is a “good start. It might work,” noting that if it does, it would benefit all citizens of the state.

Evans, however, said the state has some health-care programs available for children and adults without health insurance, but he was against the single-payer bill being proposed. “I believe private enterprise is the better way to go for health care,” he said.

Tonkin called the single-payer program “fascism,” noting it would be government control of a private program and private industry. “Do we want a free and prosperous commonwealth?” he asked, saying, if so, this was not going to allow that to happen. As an example, he compared Canada’s universal health program, saying if you have a minor problem, you can get treated immediately, but “if you need a new kidney,” there is no help.

Concerning equitable funding for education, Tonkin called for a trust fund to be established, and for each child to receive a voucher — good for his education through college, if there was sufficient funding. He said competition is the best way to reduce costs.

Noting all 501 districts in the state are “not cookie cutters,” Evans said the best way for equitable funding is to have local control. “Do we want a state school board?” he asked, referring to what may be a result of demanding equitable funding. He suggested looking for alternatives such as controlling health-care costs to help reduce the cost of education and provide more funding for education.

White suggested the state could lower the cost of state government by reducing the “WAM,” referring to the former term “walking around money” legislators had to fund projects in their district, instead leaving more money for education. He suggested the state should look at all the money available and calculate it, then they would know whether some ideas are working.

Concerning funding for human service programs, Tonkin said government should not be doing that work. It should be coming from churches and civic services. “It’s not the government’s role to decide who gets charity,” he added.

White said those programs should receive adequate funding and it could be funded by reducing the cost of government.

However, Evans questioned the reported loss, saying 50 percent of the current state budget is for welfare programs, noting that the amount has increased under Gov. Ed Rendell’s administration. He said people need to get the social services and called for parity for mental health funding, that is currently funded at a lower level.

Tonkin asked voters to consider somebody who thinks “outside the box” and said the Republican and Democrats may be the “lesser of two evils, but it is still evil. Vote Libertarian.”

“We deserve better,” said White, saying he understands the needs of the district and will be the voice for the district in Harrisburg.

Evans cited his experience and seniority as well as his accomplishments, including bringing $2.5 million to Crawford County for the Pymatuning project and $20 million in road projects as well as his work in helping developers as they prepare for future projects.

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