Hart: Education, health care top concerns<BR>

Editor's Note: The Kingman Daily Miner will print a series of stories on opposed candidates for county and statewide office prior to the Sept.

12 primary.

The Miner today is running the second of two stories on the Republican candidates for the District 2 Senate seat being vacated by Sen.

John Wettaw, R-Flagstaff, who is retiring.

Following eight years serving District 2 in the House of Representatives, state Rep.

Joe Hart, R-Kingman, and John Verkamp, R-Flagstaff, are running for the Senate seat because of term limits.

The top vote-getter of the two will face Democrat Rita Johnson, a former Flagstaff City Council member, in the Nov.

7 general election.

The job pays $24,000 a year.

The district covers a wide swatch of land from Bullhead City east to the Hopi Reservation, and includes the communities of Kingman, Williams, Flagstaff, Sedona and Strawberry.

Hart is profiled below.

State Rep.

Joe Hart, R-Kingman, agrees with Rep.

John Verkamp, R-Flagstaff, that education and health care are the top issues facing District 2 and the state as a whole.

However, they disagree on solutions.

"I think education spending is going to be an issue (in the Senate) because we have just passed the largest budget in the state's history: $6.1 billion," Hart said.

K-12 education received $3.6 billion of the total.

Hart, a 57-year-old, fourth-generation Kingman resident, said he voted this year against an $800 million increase in educational funding supported by Gov.

Jane Hull because of interest costs that will be incurred by paying off the bond in 20 years.

The plan requires voter approval of a sales tax of .6 of 1 percent under Proposition 301 on the Nov.

7 ballot.

"I told the governor I would vote for bonds if they had a sunset (clause) of five to seven years," Hart said.

He said millions of dollars spent on interest payments could be put to better use raising teacher salaries.

Citing Education Weekly, Hart said Arizona ranks 47th nationally in classroom funding for K-12.

The sales tax increase would change Arizona's standing by only 1 percentile point, to 46th.

He sees health care as a major challenge for the legislature, but disagrees with Verkamp, who introduced and helped to enact a bill to create an insurance pool to serve small businesses, individuals and seniors who lack health insurance.

"The pool sounds nice if you can throw everybody in," Hart said.

"The true litmus test is to let everybody have access to what they can afford."

He said he does not want to burden small businesses, which create 90 percent of the jobs in the state.

Hart, who is aligned with the Republican leadership in the House, said he introduced or helped to enact several bills that benefited Mohave County.

Among those are the trade corridor on U.S.

93 under the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Taxpayer Protection Act and a bill protecting auto dealers from competing with factory-owned stores.

During his freshman term in 1993, Hart said opposed a proposal to name Interstate 17 the NAFTA trade corridor, and persuaded the Arizona Department of Transportation to designate U.S.

93 the trade route.

I-17 was not suitable because it is not an all-weather road, and ADOT would not own the right of way in the stretch through the Navajo Reservation, Hart said.

ADOT then studied several routes, including Highway 95, and selected U.S.

93 because ADOT would not have to spend $80 million for another inspection station, Hart said.

Hart said he introduced and was the prime sponsor of the taxpayer bill, which was enacted this year and was designed to create the same tax rate for Arizona corporations and companies doing business here that are based in other states.

He said the legislation was needed because Arizona-based and out-of-state companies were being taxed differently.

He said he served as the prime sponsor of the auto dealer bill after Kingman car dealer Martin Swanty, representing dealers statewide, approached House Speaker Jeff Groscost.

Asked about his legislative track record, Hart said he proposes an average of five bills a year, with a success rate of 95 percent becoming law.

"I really hand-picked the bills I wanted," Hart said.

"I did not do a lot of garbage bills."

Hart, a former rancher who now owns three radio stations, said he strongly supports a comprehensive study on water availability statewide.

He headed a statewide panel that studied the effects of natural gas-fired power plants on water, air quality and economic development, and released findings in January.

He said he negotiated with Gov.

Hull to contain a provision for funding a water study under Growing Smarter Plus, Proposition 100 on the Nov.

7 ballot.

He said the $3.2 billion tobacco settlement should be placed in a trust fund.

"Let's see how long we are going to keep it," he said.

Hart concluded, "One thing I'd like to close with is Joe Hart has a record of results for District 2: a good, honorable record for results for District 2 and Mohave County."