Johnson City Press: Five Questions for Matthew Hill and Nathan Farnor ahead of state House election

Five Questions for Matthew Hill and Nathan Farnor ahead of state House election

Brandon Paykamian • Oct 16, 2018 at 10:42 PM

As the 7th Tennessee House District campaign between Democratic candidate Nathan Farnor and Republican incumbent Matthew Hill continues, the Press reached out to both candidates last week to get some of their thoughts on some of the most pressing issues in the district and state.

What are the biggest issues in our district, in your opinion?

Farnor: “Washington County is home to thousands of people just trying to get by. Working two and three jobs, getting paid poorly, and having to work horrible hours, these people are doing everything it takes to take care of their loved ones, put food on the table and keep a roof over their head. These families need jobs that pay fairly and access to health care they can afford. No person in our community should have to work themselves into a grave and then not be able to afford the care to get well again. They deserve better.”

Hill: “I will fight for new job growth in Washington County and ensure our workforce has access to resources and training to help them excel in all career phases. I will continue my advocacy for additional resources to protect our schools — I was honored to secure $475,000 in safety funding this year, and our students, teachers and schools will remain a top priority.

“We will further our progress addressing an opioid crisis that has devastated our community and state. Finally, we will expand efforts to improve access to and the quality of health care services available to Tennesseans while reducing costs.”

Medicaid expansion is a hot-button issue, and 63 percent of Tennesseans support it. What are your thoughts on Medicaid expansion?

Farnor: “There are nearly 300,000 hard-working Tennesseans who don’t have access to health care, including nearly 14,000 right here in Washington County. We now have the ability to take our tax dollars back from the federal government and spend them in Tennessee for those in our community who are in need. Because our current elected officials refuse to expand Medicaid, Tennesseans are losing nearly $3.4 billion of their own tax money every year. That money should be used to save lives, and our current legislators refuse to act. Tennesseans need Medicaid expansion, and they need legislators who will fight for it.”

Hill: “We agree we must improve access to and the quality of care patients receive while lowering costs. Medicaid expansion is not the answer. Liberals want to redefine health care as having health insurance, which now, covers less and less. As they call for more access, understand their solution is to have taxpayers pay more for insurance that covers less. I want to put Tennesseans in charge of their health care decisions through reforms and innovative policies. Patients, their loved ones and their trusted physicians must have final say on all health matters, not the government or insurance providers.”

How do you think Tennessee and the 7th District, in particular, should work to deal with the opioid crisis and why?

Farnor: “This epidemic is very real in our community with opioid-related deaths in Tennessee constantly increasing over the last decade. Because of this, we need real answers to the opioid problem in our community, and we need elected officials that will fight back instead of profiting from the industry. First, we must take steps to fund and expand Medicaid, to ensure that Tennesseans have access to the treatment and services they need. Second, we have to have accountability for those overprescribing. Currently, opioid prescriptions in the state outnumber the total population of Tennessee almost 4 to 1.”

Hill: “Northeast Tennessee is the epicenter of an opioid crisis that claimed the lives of more than 1,700 Tennesseans in 2017. This year, we implemented Tennessee Together — a multi-faceted plan to battle opioids through prevention, treatment and law enforcement. While we have seen statewide death rates attributed to prescription painkillers decrease for the first time in nearly five years, fentanyl deaths continue rising. This is a complex issue that will require innovative solutions including legislation and increased funding for law enforcement, local mental health providers and other treatment facilities that will allow us to finally end Tennessee’s cycle of addiction.”

What are your thoughts on the general political climate these days?

Farnor: “Like most people in our community and across the country, I am more than just disappointed. I am ashamed at what our political system has become. When electing officials to any office, I have always voted for candidates that I believed had the interests of my family and community at heart. Today, it is hard to do that. It seems as though all of our elected officials are focused more on their next career move or an upcoming election than actually serving those who elected them.”

Hill: “Tennessee continues to lead. Under conservative leadership, we have the lowest debt and lowest overall taxes. We’ve achieved near-record low unemployment, and our average median household income is growing at the fastest rate in the southeast. Our students are the fastest improving in the entire nation across math, reading and science. There are a lot of really good things happening, but Tennessee can be even better, and we will. Conservatives are committed to running on and addressing issues that matter most to our citizens. We will not advance false ideologies like those on the left in efforts to skew the political narrative as we see fit.”

(For Farnor) What changes do you plan to make if elected on Nov. 6?

“I believe that the working people of Tennessee have lost faith in their elected officials to make decisions and pass policy of actual benefit to our residents, and I cannot agree more. Money and secret deals have taken over our political system and have stolen power from the people who are supposed to have it — our citizens. If elected, I am ready to start challenging the actions of our state government from day one. The working people of Tennessee deserve more than political games and secret meetings. They deserve better and now is the time to fight for it.”

(For Hill) How do you believe you have helped the district and how do you promise to build upon these successes?

“Since 2011, my colleagues and I have cut more than $500 million in taxes. I’ve secured more than $7.2 million in economic and community development grants for our community. Last year, the Northeast Tennessee delegation and I obtained $4.1 million for the Tri-Cities Aerospace Park project.

“I have also successfully sponsored legislation to attract top health care professionals by streamlining their application process, strengthened our laws protecting Tennessee’s unborn children, fought to preserve our second amendment rights, and backed innovative legislation that has enabled us to become the first state in the nation to offer all kids and adults access to community college tuition-free and without raising taxes.” 

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