Q&A: 16th Senate District candidates address issues

Name: Colin Bonini
Party: Republican
Office seeking: State Senate District 16
Age: 53
Occupation: State senator and business owner
Family: Wife, Melissa
Elective experience: State senator

Name: Louisa Phillips
Party: Democrat
Office seeking: State Senate 16
Age: 67
Occupation: Retired health care senior director and registered nurse
Family: Married with two adult children
Elective experience: None

Why are you running for this office?

CB: To continue to be a voice of common-sense conservatism and independent leadership in Delaware’s state Senate and to continue to serve my constituents to the best of my ability.

LP: As a born and raised Delawarean who has lived in Kent County for my entire life, I want to address our infrastructure issues from roads that need repairs to schools that need refurbishing — we have to take care of our own.As a woman who worked hard to raise a family in Delaware, I believe that women’s voices need to be heard in Dover.As a health care professional who has seen families and seniors struggle to care for loved ones, I think it is important that public policy be made by people with experience.

I strongly believe in supporting and engaging healthy and respectful discussion and I am not afraid of competing views and interests.My time in leadership positions in health care and business taught me that good, sometimes spirited discussion allows workable solutions that can benefit everyone, not just one group or the other.

What would be your top priority if elected?

CB: The economy and jobs. Almost everything else hinges on the economic well-being of my constituents. There are many important issues, such as education, public safety and taxation, and they certainly need our attention and action, but I believe the focus has to be on the economy. Delaware lags behind other states economically; we have a personal income level well below what it should be, stagnant business growth, too many mortgage defaults and foreclosures and too much dependency on government.

We must shrink state government and dramatically reduce the regulatory burden on small business to jump-start growth in our business sector. Delaware has become a government-first state with an anti-job growth political culture. That has to change.

LP: For the 16th Senate District in Kent County, the focus of my campaign is to #Fixthe16thRoads. If elected as senator, solving the issues of highway and road congestion, construction and safety would be my main priority.With daily traffic backups on U.S. Route 13 near Camden, more traffic and development coming to the sports complex near Frederica and neglected roads and streets throughout the district, we need someone focused on making sure the road and infrastructure money that is supposed to be spent in our area actually gets here and does some good.Unfortunately, some of the state money that should have been spent in our area went to other parts of the state — that needs to stop.

If you could change one state policy or law, what would it be?

Colin Bonini

CB: We have one of the biggest, least efficient state governments in the country so I would put caps on spending and the bureaucracy.

LP: About 20 percent of people in prison in Delaware are there because they are awaiting trial on charges but cannot afford the bail that has been set. For some people, this may even be just a few hundred dollars that keeps them in prison before their trial. These people can lose everything by being incarcerated even before they are convicted: housing, cars, medical care and jobs. Imagine for a moment the impact this could have on a mother, particularly a single mother. If elected, I will be committed to ending our cash bail system.

What are your plans to boost economic development?

CB: Lower tax rates on individuals and businesses. Lower the regulatory burdens on businesses and reduce this size and intrusiveness of state government.

LP: Infrastructure is important. A key to our economic success is residents being able to get to work, home, education and shopping efficiently and safely on the roads. We must continue to make community reinvestment in schools and shopping areas a priority.

We must encourage support of local business and entertainment from locally owned restaurants, farms and commercial business. We must focus on the maintenance of a skilled and employable workforce that will ensure job growth and keep our money locally. Additionally, we must develop local initiatives and novel approaches to business development in Kent County, so we do not lag behind New Castle and Sussex in innovation.

What, if anything, should be done to increase revenue for the state or cut spending?

CB: Absolute caps on spending based on inflation and population growth. We are one of the most expensive state governments, per person, in the entire country, and we have to reign in this excessive spending or our economy will continue to suffer.

Louisa Phillips

LP: I believe that there should be ongoing program reviews to make sure that goals are met and services remain relevant and required.Sometimes a cut to a program is reasonable when situations change, technology advances or conditions/problems are resolved. But recent proposals and cuts to programs that serve seniors, the needy and people with disabilities were wrongheaded and there are revenue sources that could have been tapped instead.

I believe that we have room to add an additional 50 cents per pack tax on cigarettes; this was the recommendation from the Impact Tobacco Coalition two years ago. I also believe that the legalization of marijuana would create substantial new revenue when taxed appropriately

Do you support the legalization of marijuana? Why or why not?

CB: The critical issue to me is to keep young people from getting access. I support a strong regulatory structure to make sure those under 21 years of age absolutely will not have access to marijuana. I also believe we should increase penalties for drug dealers that sell to minors.

LP: I believe in the full legalization of marijuana products with appropriate and manageable regulations. I also believe the recreational use should be taxed, similarly to alcohol and tobacco with appropriate safe guards to keep the underage from purchasing.

What, if any, gun laws would you change?

CB: We should not infringe on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding citizens. Lawful gun owners are not the problem — the problem is criminals with guns. I support increasing the penalties for those who use a gun in the commission of a crime.

LP: Recent successful efforts to address gun violence have focused on keeping guns from those who shouldn’t have them, including those with mental illness and those with a demonstrated tendency to violence. Efforts should focus there and on school safety, identifying and addressing those who may be a threat.

Would you vote for legislation reinstating the death penalty? Why or why not?

CB: Yes. Some crimes are so heinous that they justify the ultimate penalty.

LP: I would support reinstating the death penalty in the case of the murder of law enforcement officers, correctional officers, first responders, children and the frail or elderly.

Do changes need to be made to the state’s employee health care structure? Why or why not?

CB: Yes. The current system is unsustainably expensive. If we do not make changes the system will literally take almost the entire state budget in a matter of years. I am convinced that we can reduce costs and still offer great benefits to help recruit and keep good state workers. It will take some tough choices but I really think we can make the system work while still providing the benefits that state employees will be happy with.

LP: Health care costs in Delaware are reported as unsustainable and some sources cite upwards of 6 percent inflation a year. This puts pressure on state, business and household budgets. Additionally, some organizations report that health care costs in Delaware are significantly higher than in neighboring states. These specific costs relate to current state employees, retirees and Delaware Medicaid.

It is important that we look at immediate initiatives to curtail this spending in a way that does not penalize the current system users: state employees, retirees and Medicaid participants. Gov. John Carney’s benchmark project has been proposed specifically to create downward market pressure on providers and payers in a variety of areas that can exert immediate and long-term savings to participants and taxpayors. I am optimistic for the results of this project as well as increasing pressure through effective negotiation with payers.

What should be done to combat Delaware’s drug crisis?

CB: So much needs to be done, but providing more access to treatment and getting more treatment facilities here in Delaware are the two most critical priorities.

LP: Addiction must be treated as an illness with appropriate social and behavioral resources available for families and patients. A coordinated and comprehensive delivery system encompassing education, treatment and relapse prevention provided in outpatient and inpatient settings as appropriate should be considered. These options will all need to be developed and methods for funding determined.

Is there anything else you think is pertinent?

CB: Throughout my career, I have promised to fight against “politics as usual” and to stand tall for what we believe. I promised I would fight to protect your freedoms and provide real, independent leadership in the Delaware state Senate. And I promised to be your voice of common-sense conservatism in Delaware. I’ve worked hard to keep these promises.

I have stood firm against wasteful big government and voted to create more jobs in Delaware, help our schools, lower taxes, protect your freedoms, help our senior citizens, make our communities safer and preserve our quality of life, and I still will not take a pay-raise above what other state employees receive. Together we can keep fighting for the values we share — but I need your help. I am kindly asking for your vote on Nov. 6.

LP: In addition to traffic and road safety, health care costs and access, and jobs in our area, the other focus of my campaign is support for law enforcement and the military. I look forward, if elected, to promoting policies that benefit the servicemembers and families of Dover Air Force Base in the 16th Senate District, including those who choose to stay after their service and transition into our community as employees, business owners and retirees.

 

Reach staff writer Matt Bittle at mbittle@newszap.com

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