District 54 includes portions of Buckhead and Brookhaven. The seat is being vacated by Rep. Ed Lindsey, who is running for the District 11 U.S. House seat. Four Republicans — Beth Beskin, Loretta Lepore, John McCloskey and S. Angelic Moore — will face off in Tuesday’s primary election. The winner will face independent Bill Bozarth and Democrat Bob Gibeling in November.
Beskin said her number one interest is education, and she is not a supporter of Common Core, a measure of academic standards adopted by the state in 2012.
“[Setting] standards has very little relation to outcomes,” she said.
Early childhood learning, foreign language studies and teaching music are three of Beskin’s education focuses. In regards to taxes, she said she thinks it would be better if they were lower and if taxpayers got more for their money.
“We need to reduce or eliminate personal income tax in order to be competitive,” Beskin said, noting nearby states like Florida and Texas do not collect income tax.
Bozarth said he believes Common Core is good for the state. He said though the schools may be superior in Buckhead, improving education is an issue across Georgia.
“If we keep cutting taxes, we can’t educate the children,” he said.
Bozarth said he does not feel Georgia should lower its state income tax because its revenue helps fund schools and infrastructure projects across the state.
Gibeling said he is not in favor of eliminating the personal income tax because if so, sales taxes would likely be raised in order to make up for less income taxes collected.
“I don’t want to put the burden on sales taxes,” he said, noting that could make it much harder for low-income and middle-income residents to purchase needed food, clothing and other basic supplies.
In respect to education, Gibeling said he is a supporter of Common Core, because he believes many educators are in favor of it.
Lepore said education and tax reform are among her top three concerns, in addition to job creation. She said she likes that Common Core is setting educational benchmarks globally but disapproves of the amount of confusion surrounding what Common Core is. Lepore said she would like to see the state lower its income tax to benefit entrepreneurs and small business owners, which in turn could revitalize the economy.
“If we keep taxes low on businesses, they create jobs and workers can buy goods and services,” she said.
Lepore said as business revenues grow, businesses will end up bringing in more tax revenue to the state.
McCloskey said he is in favor of eventually eliminating the state income tax. Though he does not support a high sales tax, he said he would be in favor of raising the sales tax a little over time to make up for loss in income tax revenue. Regarding education, McCloskey said he is against Common Core and believes the government should not be setting academic standards across the board.
“I’m about local control,” he said. “Centralization takes that away.”
McCloskey said it should be up to the teachers, parents and local school administrators to decide what is best for students.
Moore was invited to participate in Thursday’s forum but did not attend.