Election 2016: Tony Forlini Candidate Questionnaire

WDET sent identical questionnaires to Congressional primary candidates. Here’s how Tony Forlini answered:

Why are you running for Congress?

I ran for state rep because my kids and their peers were leaving Michigan for a better future. We had a dysfunctional state government, a budget that didn’t add up, and an attitude that chased away business. Now I am running for Congress because I see a lot of the same problems in DC.

In Lansing, I have had 94% support from my colleagues for bills I have passed.  The partisan gridlock in Washington requires someone who can reach across the aisle to get problems solved.


What qualifies you to run for Congress?

I have been a small business owner for over 30 years, so I know the environment businesses need to build a thriving economy.  I have a B.A. – Business from Western Michigan University and I am a Certified Financial Planner.

My political experience at the local and state level qualifies me to navigate the political process in Washington.  I served as Harrison Township Supervisor from 2004-2011 and State Representative, 24th District from 2011-present.  When I got to Lansing I was part of the appropriations team that eliminated a $1.5 billion state structural budget deficit and positioned Michigan to compete for 21st century jobs.  Now, for the first time in years, Michigan has attracted business investment, and young people are moving into  our state for job opportunities. I am also proud to say that I have never missed a vote in over 5 years, having a 100% voting record to date.

I am also lifelong resident of the 10th Congressional District with a long record of community involvement. 


What do you consider the major issues facing your district? Please name at least three.

•    I want to utilize my budgeting expertise to find solutions to the structural budget deficit in Washington.  The federal government has borrowed heavily from future generations to incur almost $20 trillion in federal debt.  With current low growth rates and rising debt, we are burdening our children and grandchildren with bills they cannot pay.

•    The economy and jobs is a high priority in our district.  We have worked at the state level to improve the economic environment, but federal regulations and poor economic policies at the national level have produced sluggish economic growth and the lowest level of workforce participation in years.

•    I want to put Americans first in immigration policy and ensure foreign trade policy allows Americans a fair chance to compete.  Under eight years of Obama we have been sucker punched by our trading partners overseas.  We need a better deal on foreign trade for U.S. businesses.


How do you plan to address those issues if elected?

  • I support a Constitutional Balanced Budget Amendment and eliminating automatic spending increases to create institutional fiscal discipline.  I have rooted out fraudulent and wasteful spending like country club memberships and unwarranted bonuses in state agencies.  We need to examine the detail of expenses and not pass appropriations bills without thorough review.  I will work to reduce the growth in entitlement programs that cannot be sustained and resist the pressure to add new entitlements.
  • As a small business owner, I understand keeping taxes and regulation under control ensures prosperity.  Employer mandates such as Obamacare and new overtime rules are raising business costs and reducing job opportunities.  Agricultural and environmental policy need to be based on sound science and compliance costs must be minimized.  We have the best talent in the world here in Michigan.  I have traveled overseas on my own dime to promote the skills of American workers and encourage foreign businesses to locate here.  We must also encourage more young people to enter the skilled trades, where worker shortages are developing.
  • I reject any amnesty for illegal aliens.  The path to citizenship should be legal and clear cut, and benefits of citizenship cannot be handed out to non-citizens. We should allow for the orderly entry of temporary and skilled workers needed for industries such as agriculture while protecting national security interests.  People entering the job market on work visas should not be displacing American workers.  I support careful screening of potential refugees and giving states input on refugee placement.  In trade agreements, we must address foreign currency manipulation, intellectual property theft, and unfair labor practices and ensure there are adequate means of enforcement.


Are you formally endorsing a candidate for President?

I will support Donald Trump now that he is the presumptive Republican Party nominee.  I do not support any third party candidates because that is not a winning strategy for Republicans.  I will do my part to back Donald Trump as the Republican nominee at campaign functions if invited.  That said, I will also speak up for the values of the residents of the 10th Congressional district, understanding the importance of the auto industry for Michigan jobs and the need to be respectful to all citizens.


In broad terms, what do you believe is the relationship between the federal government and local units of government? What is in your record that supports and informs this philosophy?

I have served as a township supervisor, so I understand the critical role local government plays in providing basic services of road and sewage infrastructure, police and fire protection, and protecting quality of life for residents.  Philosophically, I believe in putting as much authority as possible at the local level where residents have direct access to their leadership.  Even as a state representative, I have always held local in-district office hours at convenient times to allow residents to inform me directly on the issues.

The role of the federal government should be providing the services that serve a broader interest – national security, foreign trade, etc.  The federal level is appropriate for regulating inter-state commerce to ensure free markets and setting safety standards for food and drugs so businesses don’t have to go through each state in a cumbersome process to get approval. 

The federal government does not play a productive role in education, where authority should returned to the local level with the teacher in the classroom.  Imposing mandates like the ridiculous transgender bathroom rules and Common Core removes parents and teachers from the process that happens at a very local level – educating their kids.  I have voted against Common Core at the legislature and spent a lot of time listening to local teachers and parents on these issues.


What is your opinion on:

Raising the age of Medicare eligibility?

The current system of Medicare, which is highly micro-managed by the federal government, has not succeeded at containing costs or securing the quality of care retirees deserve.  Raising the age of eligibility is not the best solution to this problem.

In the long-term, we should be moving to a market based system with federal premium support for retirees and disabled individuals.  This would allow the consumer choice currently enjoyed by federal workers and retirees in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP).


Taxing investor income on municipal bonds?

Municipal bonds fund important public works projects that benefit local residents, so these investments should not be taxed.


Establishing an Internet sales tax?

The word ‘internet sales tax’ is a misnomer.  No one is calling for a new tax on purchases over the internet.  The current state laws, including those in Michigan, already require residents to pay sales tax on established categories of goods regardless of how the sale is made.  State tax forms provide a place for residents to remit state sales tax owed on purchases where it was not collected at the time of sale.  The reality is most of these owed sales tax dollars are never collected because we lack an effective enforcement mechanism.

What results is an unfair advantage for internet sales vendors over local brick and mortar stores, which are required to collect the sales tax.  Government should not be in the business of picking winners and losers in the private sector, so sales tax collection should be universally collected regardless of where and how the sale is made to create a fair playing field.  Working out inter-state commerce law issues at a federal level with the cooperation of the states is the solution.


Transportation-related infrastructure and prioritization of road repair vs. transit vs. non-motorized projects?

I have always believed infrastructure is one of the fundamental responsibilities of government, and I have made votes to invest more in road repair.  The Detroit metro area could benefit from better mass transit options, and I voted to establish a Regional Transit Authority to explore options.  I have also sponsored legislation to update rules for bicycle riders.  I frequently ride my bike around Lansing and as a mode of transportation back home.

In general, road repair needs to take priority over other projects due to its heavy usage and wear and tear from Michigan’s harsh weather patterns.


Energy policy and how it may support local investments in renewable power and support for financial incentives to increase energy efficiency?

We need a wide range of energy options for a stable electric grid and fuel for motorized vehicles and equipment.  This includes permitting more nuclear plants, allowing next generation clean coal plants, and siting more wind farms.  We should continue alternative energy research to provide more future clean energy options.  I believe this is a matter of national defense to protect our energy interests.

I am in favor of continuing to provide tax breaks for energy efficiency investments.