City Club debate highlights contrasts
State Rep. Jim Weidner opened a McMinnville City Club debate Tuesday by focusing on what he called “one of the hottest issues we’re facing — health care.”
Weidner said Oregon is one of the first states to begin implementing the Obama administration’s new Affordable Health Care Act.
“With Oregon already in a $300 million budget shortfall, the notion of increased responsibility for Medicaid recipients is staggering,” he said. “The state of Oregon is expected to enroll over 30,000 people into the program between 2013 and 2017. Between 2013 and 2015, we will acquire an estimated 733,522 people on these programs for an average cost of $10,142 per enrollee. At this point, the federal government will assume 95 percent of the cost and Oregon will be required to fulfill the remaining 5 percent.”
Weidner said that by 2019, the state is expected to have more than 955,475 people enrolled at a cost of $12,244, and the federal match is scheduled to drop to 90 percent.
“We are already cutting vital services to a whole host of government assistance programs,” he said. “We must ask ourselves, how much will Oregon finally devote to paying for health care?”
His opponent in Yamhill County’s House District 24, Kathy Campbell, strongly disagreed. And she cited an entire career in the field to support her observations.
“I’ve heard a lot of statistics,” she said “But I didn’t hear from you, what would you do? What would you do different?”
“I don’t want to be talking about cuts. It’s going to be an all-encompassing thing. We have to look at the positive aspect, look at what we can do, not what we cannot do.”
She said, “It’s going to be a combination, at least that’s what I hope. I believe the system, as they are telling us, is going to save money.
“I’m going to be a champion of this to see if it works. We have to get off our seats and move ahead. I know you’re going to tell me we’re going to take every last cent, but I don’t agree with that.”
Weidner concluded by acknowledging the “stark difference between the two of us.”
The debate also featured county commissioner candidates Denise Bacon and Allen Springer. They are seeking to replace Leslie Lewis, who is term-limited out this year.
The candidates were allowed seven minutes to introduce themselves, followed by five minutes to field questions from their opponents. And that twist produced some interesting dialogue.
Springer noted Bacon supports a county hotel and motel room tax to support local tourism, which he does not. He asked her how it would work, since some of the county’s cities already have room taxes of their own and others do not.
Bacon said, “At some point, you have to admit you’ve missed that first bus and get on the second one.” She noted Newberg collected $300,000 last year from its room tax.
“These visitors are using your roads, your resources, and they need to pay for it,” she said. “They need to pay their fair share.”
When she had her turn to question Springer, she asked him to clarify statements he’s made about churches helping pick up some of the slack in the social services arena, helping the county deal with budget shortfalls. “How will churches get the money and coordinate the care?” she asked.
Springer said he didn’t say that churches were the answer, but rather that they wereonea component of the answer.
“We need everybody on board,” he said. “In unity, we can do much more than as individuals.”
“There’s a lot at stake in this election,” said Mary Starrett, who made her own run two years ago, losing to Mary Stern. “There’s a stark difference between the candidates.”
She said she came out Tuesday to support Weidner and Springer. She made a particular pitch for Weidner, saying, “One of the candidates clearly has no answers but feel-good platitudes. Jim Weidner is a slam dunk.”
An observer from a different perspective, Marcie Rosenzweig, saw it 180 degrees the other way.
She said Campbell tried to address a broad range of issues, including education and employment, but all Weidner seemed to want to address was health care, and then only in dollar terms.
“I would have liked some space for the audience to ask questions,” she said. “Personally, I had a lot of questions that didn’t get addressed.”
“You have to deal with the details,” Timi Parker said. “They vote on details.
“If voters haven’t heard where they stand, how do you know who they’re voting for?”