June 17--CUMBERLAND -- Ray Givens and Michael McKay, the two Republicans in the race for state delegate from District 1C, answered questions for an hour Monday afternoon during a candidate forum at Allegany College of Maryland.
The forum, sponsored by the Allegany Chamber of Commerce and WCBC, was aired live by the radio station. The questions were posed by Bryan Gowans, news director at WCBC, retired labor executive Bill DuVall and businessman Jeff Hutter.
Both candidates agreed that Maryland's corporate tax is bad for business and needs to be lowered.
Givens said he would introduce legislation to reduce that rate specifically for the district he would represent if elected.
"Population growth will adjust itself if there are jobs," Givens said. "Maryland has lost 10 Fortune 500 companies in the past 10 years."
McKay decried a state spending increase of 11.6 percent in 2012, as well as increases in the taxes for sales, alcohol, flood insurance and gasoline. He said he would work to reduce personal taxes as he has done during his stint as an Allegany County commissioner.
The candidates were asked to assess the impact of the Tea Party at the local level.
"If you are talking about having a smaller government with less regulation, the Tea Party had an effect in Western Maryland," McKay said. "But there are different brands of tea in different parts of the country."
Givens call the Tea Party's impact "excellent" in Washington County, where he lives. "In Allegany County there were problems with leadership, but that changed and is now positive."
In an attempt to reduce the state's financial deficit, McKay said he would look for guidance from Sen. George Edwards and Del. Wendell Beitzel who have been dealing with those issues at the General Assembly and would add his vote to theirs.
Givens said he would work to keep tax dollars gathered in Western Maryland from being spent solely to benefit Baltimore County.
Givens spent a lot of Annapolis time during the 2013 General Assembly representing sportsmen groups and opposing the gun control brought on by the Maryland Firearms Safety Act. He said more effort needs to be made to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally unstable and criminals, not law-abiding Marylanders.
McKay said he will not turn his back on law abiding citizens who use guns. "Maryland has gone way too far," he said of the existing gun laws.
As members of the political minority party in the state, the candidates were asked what they would do to be heard.
Givens said that during his time testifying in Annapolis over the years he has made many friends in both parties. "I would use those connections," he said. "I know that many deals are made in back rooms."
McKay trumpeted his role in forming and guiding the Maryland Rural Counties Coalition, representing one million citizens. "I would network through that organization to make sure we are heard," he said.
McKay called the loss of highway user funds a devastating blow to local governments in Western Maryland. He said those funds should be used only for the building and repair of highways, not for public transportation projects in the metropolitan and suburban areas of the state. "When the town of Luke gets a highway user fund check for $232 to fix potholes, that's a joke," he said, noting that the funds are generated by everyone who buys gasoline.
Givens said only 8 percent of Marylanders use public transportation, yet the highway user funds are being directed to those projects. He said he would work to restore those funds to local governments.
Both candidates oppose the legalization of marijuana in Maryland.
Givens said he believes the state should wait a few years, studying the impact of legalization in Colorado, before making any decisions.
McKay said he does not believe that legalizing marijuana would make a better future for Maryland and the state's children.
Each approved of marijuana for medical use if the drug is highly regulated.
There was agreement as well when it comes to giving state contracts to local businesses.
"Out of state contractors don't pay Maryland taxes," Givens said.
McKay said the renovation of the Crosstown Bridge and other Interstate 68 projects should have gone to local contractors.
The candidates seemed to part ways when asked about state funding for the Canal Place development and restoration of the Footer Dye Works Building.
McKay said no more state funds should be spent.
Givens said he could see a role for state funding, as long as funding also came from the federal government and especially the private sector.
Each candidate said if he lost in the GOP primary on June 24 that he would support the other in the race to represent District 1C.
WCBC will air the forum again on Sunday following the Pittsburgh Pirates broadcast.
Contact Michael A. Sawyers at [email protected].
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