Brandt Iden is one of the youngest members ever on Kalamazoo County's Board of Commissioners. The owner of a small real estate management firm says job growth and the economy are the main reasons he's running for state house.
Iden is seeking the seat in the 61st district that includes the city of Portage. He is facing fellow County Commissioner Phil Stinchcomb for the Republican nomination. Current Representative Margaret O'Brien is running for state Senate. Iden sat down with WMUK's Gordon Evans and Kalamazoo Gazette reporter Alex Mitchell. A summary:
Michigan's infrastructure remains a big issue after lawmakers failed to reach agreement before starting their summer recess. Iden says he would look to the state budget first, and try to find savings that could go into roads. He says the state should eliminate its "prevailing wage" law which guarantees a certain wage for state contracts. Iden says repealing "prevailing wage" would save money that could go into roads. But he acknowledges that it wouldn't be enough to raise the $1.2-billion needed for road repair. Iden says he would consider more revenue for roads, but only if there are additional reforms and savings from the state budget first.
Some state lawmakers, including House Speaker Jase Bolger have called for decriminalizing marijuana, so it would be punishable by a fine rather than jail time. Iden says he's not in favor of decriminalizing or legalizing pot. He says there could be major problems with businesses trying to hire good employees. Iden says there could be legal problems for employers who want to drug test employees or applicants. Iden says he would like to see more drug treatment courts in the state. He says Kalamazoo County's has been a model for reducing costs and recidivism.
State lawmakers approved an increase in the minimum wage that was signed into law by Governor Rick Snyder. Iden says lawmakers were in "a tough spot" because of a ballot issue that was likely headed for the ballot. But Iden says he would not have supported the increase in the minimum wage because he has heard too many concerns from business owners. Iden says it will drive up prices. Iden says he thinks the state should have a minimum wage, but should be mindful of how it affects business.
Iden says there are a lot of cost-saving measure that can come from consolidation of services among local governments. He says the state can't force communities to merge or consolidate services. But Iden says consolidation is needed in various levels of government.
Discussion of other issues can be heard in the web version of the interview
Personal Property Tax
A proposal on the August ballot will phase out Michigan's Personal Property Tax. Iden says he supports the proposal on the ballot. He says it eliminates an antiquated tax that hurts local businesses. Iden says it will also replace the revenue that local units of government receive from the tax.
Asked about legislation regulating e-cigarettes, Iden says he hasn't reviewed it. But he says e-cigarettes are a major concerns of schools. Iden says if educators have concerns about how it detracts from teaching, then lawmakers should address that.
Asked about term limits, Iden says he would favor see a part-time Legislature. He says there constituent service would have to be maintained if the Legislature was part-time. Iden says "institutional knowledge" is important for legislative bodies. But he says voters have not shown support for eliminating term-limits.
Iden says expanding the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act to include protections for sexual orientation and gender identity raises the possibility of businesses facing unintended consequences. Iden says he's not sure that the government has to add another protected class to the state's law covering discrimination. Iden says he believes marriage is between one man and one woman. But he says Michigan could allow for civil unions for same-sex couples.
The Republican primary in the 61st district features two Kalamazoo County Commissioners. Both Iden and Phil Stinchcomb were elected in 2010. Iden says they "came on the board together, and we're going to be leaving together one way or another." Asked about the differences between the two of them, Iden points to recent endorsements from business groups. Iden says those groups believe he can be an effective advocate for business.