The question-and-answer-style forum at Cleveland State Community College was sponsored by the Bradley County Bar Association and Cleveland Lions Club. It was aired live on WCLE radio and will be broadcast on WTNB television.
The campaign has been friendly with each candidate publicly characterizing the other as a nice guy. The air of civility continued until Bell’s closing statement when he said, “It is easy to say words but we need to remember what our parents taught us, that our actions speak louder than words.”
He said both candidates have voting records and reputations in Nashville.
“I’m glad my opponent said he is against a state income tax now because he voted for it three times when he was in office last time. He voted for two sales tax increases and one gas tax increase,” Bell said.
Patten said in his closing remarks he did not see a need in changing the state’s tax structure and he was absolutely opposed to a state income tax.
“Our tax structure is adequate and sufficient once we get our economy moving. That is the priority for me and I think that’s the priorities in the four counties I will be representing,” Patten said.
The former senator approached reporters after the forum concluded with an excerpt from the Senate Journal from March 3, 1993 which showed Patten voting against enacting a 4 percent personal income tax.
Bell was elected to the Tennessee House of Representatives in 2007. He said in his opening remarks he has a 100 percent pro-life voting record and authored a bill to constitutionally ban enacting a state income tax.
Patten served in the state Senate from 1986 to 1994. He said he was effective in getting projects ranging in size from ball fields to a bridge across the Tennessee River on Highway 60.
One of the questions dealt with a private act from Polk County which would have allowed the County Commission to impose a tax on rafting tickets.
Patten, who answered the question first, said it was his understanding the rafting industry and county commissioners had reached a compromise agreement.
“I would work with both of those entities and try to get something accomplished what would be beneficial to both,” he said. “I wouldn’t want to cram something down on the rafting industry in Polk County because that is the largest industry and raises the most revenue for the county.
“On the other hand, I understand the county needs revenue to fund its services.”
Bell said the bill was a private act requesting a specific change to a local government. He said if the local county passes a private act by a three-fourths majority, he would carry such private acts to a vote in the Senate.
“I have worked with the rafting community on several occasions and I would work with the Commission but I am not going to insert myself in a local issue,” he said. “If the county passes that (private act) by a three-fourths majority. I will take it to the legislature.”
He said the bill encountered a great deal of opposition from around the state by people who feared the private act could set a precedent for other counties wanting to impose a tax on amusement.
Patten said if it was a private act, it probably should have been passed because it only affected Polk County.
“Other counties should not be worried about a private act for their certain situation,” he said.
When asked about their position on legislation based on recent immigration laws passed in Arizona, Bell said he would support such legislation and said he voted in favor of a resolution congratulating Arizona.
He said it is an issue he has worked on since his first day and would continue working on illegal immigration in the Senate though it is mainly a federal problem.
Bell said Tennessee has to do something on the state level by making it harder on employers to hire illegal immigrants, not giving undocumented aliens driving privileges and taking away certain public services.
Patten said he would support similar legislation in Tennessee. It was shameful, he said, for the federal government to sue the border state for enacting legislation that mirrors federal law.
“The federal government should be responsible and protect Arizona citizens from illegal immigration,” he said.