Like most other candidates this year, Republican incumbent Rep. Peter Pettalia and Democratic challenger Ken Hubbard base their respective platforms to represent the106th District in the Michigan State House of Representatives on jobs and the economy. They differ in their philosophies on the economy's biggest long-term challenges and how best to mediate them.
Pettalia, a small business owner from Presque Isle vying for a second consecutive term, ran in 2009 because he believed Michigan's "overbearing regulations" and fickle tax codes put it on the wrong track for economic growth, and he hopes to continue adjusting state policy with that in mind.
"With more employment, we can tax a bigger base of people," he said. "We don't have to increase taxes, we'll have more people employed, businesses can thrive."
Hubbard, a former construction worker, Alpena Fire Chief, and Alpena county commissioner, was unhappy with the state government's apparent priorities.
"The final straw was when they started taxing our seniors, pensions, pension savings, middle class deductions being gone, and then a $1.8 billion tax cut given to corporations, and I decided that there was a shift in the responsibility for where we are, along with the blame being placed on middle class workers," he said. "We need to look at how we can help our small businesses in our local areas ... I want to return the monies to the public schools, to the local governments, so that they can actually provide good services to our children."
Pettalia is generally against tax abatements because they favor some businesses over others, but he said Michigan became the seventh best state to do business with (up from 48th in 2009) since it started making its tax codes cheaper and simpler for businesses.
"We want to attract businesses here not because we're going to give them a tremendous amount of tax breaks and try to draw business from Indiana or Ohio or Wisconsin, we want them to come here because we have the best business tax codes in the United States, and it's fair and level for all to come and play," he said. "I don't think businesses are afraid to live up to (environmental) expectations, but they want to know what they are without ever changing."
Hubbard, on the other hand, believes the laws that protected the environment when the state was financially healthier are not to blame for the economy's current problems and should not be sacrificed to solve them.
"If we're going to create jobs, we need to look at how we can do that and make sure any of our tax money spent towards that goal needs to have a benchmark, that a job is actually created with that tax money," he said. "To give a tax cut and assume automatically that people are going to create jobs is historically not true."
Both candidates also say public schools need more money but disagree on how to raise it. Pettalia, who wants to bring more categorical dollars to schools for vocational curriculums, said most of school funding comes from sales and property taxes, and without jobs, the revenue to fund schools dries up.
"Consumption is way down. We have hit hard economic times, we are not shopping as much ... we lost a million manufacturing jobs, which are families that are leaving the state ... Our property values have been declining," he said, which means a much smaller pool of money.
Hubbard said he does not think the government should "blanket the state with cuts" in hopes of raising money.
"The governor ... says he's going to put the money where it's going to do the most good. It's very obvious from the last year and a half of legislation that the place that the money's going to go is not in the 106th (district), and anybody from here who says that we need to help the state by taking money away from the local area, in my opinion, does not understand the local economy and how fragilie it is already," he said.
Pettalia defends his candidacy primarily on his knowledge of small businesses and how to lure them here while protecting the environment.
"I've stood up for Northeast Michigan. I have brought awareness in Lansing to Northeast Michigan," he said. "I have brought up the governor, lieutenant governor, committee members, committee chairs over the last two years, bringing awareness to what we have"
Displeased with policies he says favor communities downstate, Hubbard wants a chance to represent a region that's been lost in the shuffle.
"I think no solutions should include winners and losers, and it's very obvious that has been the case," he said. "We're all going through an economic recovery, but we've always built a local economy here in the northeastern part of the state."
Andrew Westrope can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5693.