HD: Fasano and Oliva, candidates for House District 45
Mike Fasano and Marcelino Oliva, candidates for the state House District 45 seat, met at the Times' Bayonet Point office Friday for a debate. The candidates questioned each other. After a two-minute answer, the questioner was allowed a one-minute rebuttal.
Fasano, 36, is a vice president for investments at Dean Witter Reynolds and president of the West Pasco Republican Club.
Oliva, 58, a Democrat, is an osteopathic physician who has practiced in Dade City since 1965. He is a founding trustee of Pasco-Hernando Community College.
Fasano: Marcelino, regarding the constitutional amendments facing the voters on the November ballot, could you please give us your views on Amendment 2, whether you support it or you don't, and how you think it interacts and relates with Amendment 4?
Oliva: Well, Amendment 2 is the limitation on state revenue collection, and I think that this is the amendment that was proposed by the Legislature. I've been on record supporting that amendment. It basically allows the Legislature to increase the limits by a two-thirds vote and requires adjustments of the limitation to reflect transfer of responsibility for funding governmental functions. And it gives the people an opportunity to put a handle on government. And it was an amendment that was passed by the Legislature and it was one of those that survived. How it relates to Amendment 4. Revenue limits: "May people's amendments limiting government revenue be allowed to cover multiple subjects?" I oppose that amendment. I think that when you are allowing multiple subjects _ every other amendment that is placed on the Constitution allows for one subject to be heard. I served on the Constitution Revision Commission in 1978 and I think if every amendment that is placed on the Constitution calls for one single subject, then I think this amendment is well. I support the amendment on limitation of taxes by the people, but I think if it is going to be placed on the ballot as Amendment 4 says, it would allow multiple subjects, I would not favor that.
Fasano: I agree that Amendment 2 is a very good amendment and I wholeheartedly support it. I think that allowing to tie a state spending with the five years of the average personal income is very important. It's important that we cap spending because it has gotten out of control, absolutely gotten out of control, with the bureaucracies in Tallahassee, and I think this is a great way of keeping spending under control by tying it with the five years of average personal income here in Florida. I disagree with you in regards to Amendment 4. I support Amendment 4. Amendment 4 allows the people to have citizens initiatives, and it's because we don't have Amendment 4 that so many amendments keep getting thrown out by the Supreme Court. Here, now, you have Amendment 4 that allows people to limit the power of government to raise revenue, and I think this is very important, that people should be able to . . .
At this point, the moderator cut off the answer at the one-minute time limit.
Oliva: Mike, I recently read a response in a questionnaire where you support educational programs which financially enable parents to send their children to the school of their choice, whether public, private or parochial. My question, Mike, is do you think the best way to improve public education in Florida is to increase support to public schools, or is it to provide financial aides and vouchers to those parents who want to send their children to private schools?
Fasano: Well, the first thing I want to make very clear is that I support our public schools, but I also support allowing individual parents to send their children wherever they wish to choose to send them, as long as that school has met the regulations by the state. I also believe, though, that we need to look at maybe a pilot program in regards to vouchers. We have spent so much money in the educational system today, and we're seeing that many of our children today are graduating without proper education, and that concerns me. We're throwing good money after bad money. We're not fulfilling our obligation of teaching our children what they should be taught in school, and they're coming out of high school today without a good education, many of them are, and we see that throughout the state of Florida. As far as vouchers are concerned, first of all I believe that we need to have a pilot program, something similar that was set up under HRS and welfare reform package, to see if it does truly work. But I also would like to encourage, and I would not be in favor of anything that the people don't want. I think the people should decide for themselves, like they did out in California, whether we should have a voucher system, but I think it should be looked at. But I don't believe we should continue to throw good money after bad in the Department of Education, a bureaucracy in Tallahassee that has gotten out of control, that the Democrats have controlled for the last 30-40 years, and I think we need to start looking at bringing back those tax dollars back to local levels, and furthering Blueprint 2000 and making certain that people have a choice of where they want to send their child. But I also don't think that if a voucher system goes into effect that we should grandfather all those in the private sector, that we should look at it as a pilot program and see if it works.
Oliva: I think it is a sad commentary when we are underfunded in our educational system, and there is one thing that is true that you say, Mike, there is some waste in certain departments. But the money that is needed to be spent at a teacher and student level and the local level like Blueprint 2000 has encouraged. But I think it is a sad commentary when you talk about reforming the welfare system, that you would support a voucher system which is nothing more than a welfare for the rich at the cost of approximately $1-billion per year. And this money, this taxpayers' money that is coming out of the educational funding, which needs to be enhanced and increased at the local level. And the voucher system is nothing more than a system of welfare for the rich.
Fasano: Marcelino, as I walk the district and I speak to people throughout this district, their concerns are not what you're going to do for the special interest groups in Tallahassee, but what are you going to do for the constituents? What kind of a plan do you have, a constituency service plan that you have, that you may have, that you can tell us right now, what you're going to do for the constituents if you become a legislator?
Oliva: Well, I'm glad you asked me that. I thought you would come with some tricky question, knowing the way you are, but this is one that is very fair and needs to be answered. I'm running for the Legislature because I want to put the people of this district first. I want to represent the people of this district first. I want to be able to make a difference in Tallahassee. I don't want to make a career out of politics. I will be 59 years old, as I stated before Nov. 8, my birthday, and I don't need to make a career out of this. I have also walked with the help of family, my wife, and sisters and volunteers, some 2,500 to 3,000 homes, and what I want to do, my plan will be not to serve any special interest. If you look at my contribution list, it expands over the entire spectrum of accountants, bankers. The health profession has been brought out many, many times, but I don't owe anything to anybody because if what I have to offer doesn't satisfy those people, then I have no problem at all if they don't want me back there again, because I don't intend to make a career out of this thing. What I want to do is look at the needs that we have in this district and the state of Florida. You know, core issues of education funding. What are we doing to reduce the juvenile crime, problems with our environment that we've had, continue to use my expertise in health care reform. We have had some, but it's not enough, where we can provide affordable health care to 2.5-million Floridians in this state. What are we going to do for the elderly in this community to reduce the prescription drugs that they are paying. That's what I'm going to do for people. I'm going to put people first in this district.
Fasano: With my only one-minute response, I have a six-point constituent service plan. The first thing that I will do is I will have two full-time offices, one in Land O'Lakes and one in New Port Richey. I will have two part-time satellite offices, one in Dade City, one in Holiday. I will have regular town meetings so I make certain that I'm meeting the people within my district, and not the special interest groups in Tallahassee. I'll have informational newsletters, newsletters that will go out on a quarterly basis, so that I can let the people know what is happening throughout the state and how their tax dollars are being spent. I'm going to have retirees on advisory committees, people who have worked in the system who can advise us how to help the system. I'm going to have constituent questionnaires that will go out to my constituents so they can tell me what they want me as a legislator to do for them in Tallahassee. And most importantly, I'm going to have a toll-free hot line. This district is so big, that I believe that no one should have to call long distance to get to their legislator. They should be able to call toll-free, they should be able to get in touch with that individual whenever they need to.
Oliva: Mike, have you sought or will you accept the endorsement of the Christian Coalition, a group headed and controlled by Pat Robertson, another political extremist, who want to regulate our every aspect of our private and daily lives, including the banning of the Wizard of Oz and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as was the incidence in Lake County involving the School Board. How can you say that you are for less government when you want to be endorsed, or maybe seeking the endorsement by the group who wants government involvement in every aspect of our daily life?
Fasano: It's a very good question, Marcelino. But apparently, you're not too up to date on what the Christian Coalition or many of those coalitions do out there. Christian Coalition does not endorse candidates. They make that very clear, whether it be at the national, state or local level, and therefore I have not sought their endorsement. I have filled out a questionnaire that I sent to them. Unfortunately, you refused to fill out their questionnaire. But I did not seek their endorsement. What I seek are the endorsements of the people within the community, people who want change in Tallahassee, people who want to be represented at the local level and not have someone represent them whose going to represent the special interest groups in Tallahassee. So, to answer your question as quickly and as fairly as possible, they do not endorse and I have not sought an endorsement by them. However, I'm proud to say that many of their values, especially family values, I share.
Oliva: Well, they're coming out with a report card, whether it is an endorsement or not, on Monday, and I'm sure they will be notifying the people that have similar beliefs. If the word endorsement is too much, then we use support. But I believe the government as it is now is too big and we should concentrate on our core responsibilities, such as crime, education, funding for core responsibilities. And you continue to bring back the special interest of which you stated in an article here when we first started the campaign that you would not be critical of me for accepting money from special interests because I would do what I thought was right and would not be influenced by that vote. Obviously, you have not received the support from the multiple numbers of people that I have, but I plan to represent people in this district. That's my first choice and my first special interest.
Fasano: Marcelino, two years ago when you ran for the state senate you made a couple of statements and I have a copy of the St. Petersburg Times transcript here. One: You favor a bill requiring deposits for bottles and cans. Two: Although you say you're against a state income tax , you also state that you are in favor of eliminating most of the current exemptions from state sales tax. In other words, a service tax. So people who want to have their lawn cut or buy pharmaceutical drugs or consult their doctor or put an ad in a newspaper, you're in favor of that. You also state that you are in favor of a state sponsored medical insurance program. Now, have your views changed, or are you still in favor of these three specific items that I just spoke about?
Oliva: Well, No. 1, I never have been in favor of the state income tax, then, now or in the future, with regards to that issue. With regard to the statements that I made about the service tax, I was quoting the Budget and Reform Commission that came up with certain recommendations with regards as to how to change the tax structure of the state of Florida. And one of the recommendations that was made was to look at the possibility of eliminating some of the sales tax exemptions, which is basically as you stated a service tax to eliminate those exemptions which would generate approximately between $8 to $11-billion a year in revenue. Okay, your governor, Martinez . . .
Fasano: He was both of our governor, wasn't he, sir?
Oliva: Yes, but, do not interrupt the format, okay, and don't allow that from my time. Your governor, Martinez, got burned very bad because of that. During another administration, again, what happened was that the sales tax was brought up before the Legislature and it was not approved. I do not approve of any new taxes at this present time and in this campaign. There's other means for additional revenues and I do not support the service tax. With regards to health care reform, we have done some health care reform, and I never supported a single payer system, which is what you alluded to which is a state program that is controlled by the government. I have never supported a single care system. What I am supporting is reform within our health care system and I can talk to you hours about health care reform. We have done some reforms in the state of Florida with the passage of the institution of the cheaper boards and all of these things, but we still have a lot more to do. I am not for any taxes of any kind, then or now.
Fasano: Marcelino, I can only go back to what your statement was, and that you said you would want to eliminate most of the current exemption from the state sales tax. When you eliminate exemptions from sales taxes, you're asking the retiree out there, you're asking the working man, to pay more taxes. You're asking him and her to pay for a tax every time they want to get advice from the pharmacist. You're asking them to pay a tax every time they get their drug filled or refilled. You're asking them to pay a tax when they get their lawn cut or put an ad in the newspaper, even consult their doctor. I'm totally against that. And you talk about our governor, Bob Martinez. Let's talk about our governor, Lawton Chiles, the gentleman who has the same party affiliation as you. That gentleman, when he first came in office, proposed the largest tax increase this state has ever seen. Fortunately, it wasn't passed, because both Democrats and Republicans said, "No, we're not going to do that.' I'm against any tax increase. I'm against any type of bureaucracy that is going to put a headache on our retirees and our children and our working people.
Oliva: Ditto to that too.
Oliva: Mike, this is simple. You should be able to expound on that and take all your time. What do you think are the qualifications necessary to serve as a state representative in our area?
Fasano: Qualifications are simple as far as I'm concerned. Qualifications should be someone who's going to work hard, who has some experience, has leadership qualities, an individual who has participated briefly as a volunteer, like myself, in the system, in working with legislators within the delegation here in Pasco County. And I'm very proud to say that I have some of those qualifications and I think that so far people have seen that in me, that I have worked with our delegation here in Pasco in regards to Enraged People Against Rape in lobbying. And we were successful in doing away with basic gain time for rape offenders. As a volunteer I did that. Here in Pasco County I lobbied our legislators here and up in Tallahassee as a volunteer to protect our bingo ordinance, and we were successful. So, we did away with the commercial bingo halls, most of them here in Pasco County. We need someone like that who's going to spend their time working for the little guy back here at home and not for the special interest groups in Tallahassee. Marcelino, with all due respect, you have been a registered lobbyist for many, many years. You have an access in Tallahassee, an access to special interest groups. But in my opinion, we need somebody who's going to represent the grass roots, and that's what I want to do, and that's what I've been talking about for the last six months since I've been involved in this campaign. I want to represent those individuals who are retired here, who came here to live and retire, individuals who came here to work and bring their families up, both men and women working. I want to represent them. And my campaign contributions clearly state that, that my contributors are coming from the small people out there, the little guy, who are giving me $5, $10, $15, $25, and yes, some of them even a little bit more, but they live in the district, because they want someone who is going to represent them in Tallahassee, and I think that's a good qualification.
Oliva: I'm glad to hear that. Then $50,000 from the Republican Party to your campaign is not a special interest contribution, but . . .
Fasano: I have not received any money from the Republican Party.
Oliva: You haven't? Well, then they must be lacking . . .
Fasano: You're most mistaken on that, sir.
Oliva: I think all the things you say with regards to the qualification is what you have done in the community is a good qualification. I have been a resident of this county for almost 30 years. I've delivered a large number of babies and been dealing with people on a day-to-day basis through my medical career. I've been involved with Saint Leo College, have been a founding member of the board of trustees of Pasco-Hernando Community College and additionally I'm a senior citizen now, you see, and I understand the problems that the seniors face. So I think I could relate to those people in this district very well. More important than the qualification is that of maturity and integrity. And integrity not using your position to further yourself such as you did with regards to the position in the lottery.
State House District 45 includes parts of West Pasco, Central Pasco and slivers of East Pasco and southeastern Hernando County. Representatives serve two-year terms and are paid $22,560 a year.
MICHAEL FASANO, 36, is a New York native who moved to Pasco County in 1970. He dropped out of school after his father died and worked to support himself and his mother. Eventually, Fasano became a stockbroker with Dean Witter Reynolds and threw himself into Pasco politics. For eight years, he served as a state committeeman with the Republican Party. He now presides over the West Pasco Republican Club. In 1986, he ran unsuccessfully for County Commission. In 1992, he lost the GOP primary for state House District 49. He lives with his mother in Heritage Lakes Estates. ASSETS: home, car, stock holdings and securities, and a certificate of deposit. LIABILITIES: mortgage and loan. SOURCE OF INCOME: salary from Dean Witter Reynolds and interest on investments.
MARCELINO OLIVA, 58, was born in Cuba and moved to the United States at age 8. He graduated from Jesuit High School in Tampa and Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala. He earned a medical degree at the Kansas City College of Osteopathic Medicine. He has practiced in Dade City since 1965 and is a founding trustee of Pasco-Hernando Community College. He is married and has three grown daughters. ASSETS: home, stocks, and retirement trust. LIABILITIES: bank loans. SOURCE OF INCOME: osteopathic physician income.