Early voting is Oct. 13-30 for the Nov. 3 election. Among the races is Texas House of Representatives, District 106, where incumbent Jared Patterson, a Republican, is running against Jennifer Skidonenko, a Democrat. Below are the answers to a questionnaire submitted to the candidates by Star Local Media. Skidonenko did not respond to the Q&A by Star Local Media's deadline.
Occupation: Energy consulting
Number of years in the district: I was born and raised in North Texas and have lived in Frisco since 2015.
If elected in November, what would your top three priorities be?
As state representative last session, we passed massive overhauls to our property tax system, triggering an election of taxpayers if taxes are raised over a certain amount. We also invested $11 billion into our public education system to increase teacher pay and reduce school property tax rates. That bill also capped future tax increases at 2.5%, down from 8% previously. Still, there are more reforms which must be made at the appraisal district level. Last session, I filed a bill to slow the growth of appraised values, and I plan to file that same bill next session.
Next session we must reduce state expenses to meet the projected $5 billion budget shortfall as a result of the economic shutdown, protect our police officers and first responders against cities who want to defund the police and build upon the investments we are making to improve mobility and congestion in our area.
What is the biggest issue facing this district, and how would you help resolve it?
The biggest issues facing the district remain high property taxes and roadway congestion due to our region’s population expansion. Last session, we were able to slow the growth of property taxes moving forward. But, as I mentioned before, we must follow that up with reforms at the appraisal district level. I will refile my bill mentioned before to slow the growth of appraised values and look for other measures to help the taxpayer.
As for transportation, I formed the Make 380 Safe Task Force in 2019 to tackle this issue. We were able to get the dual left turn lane from FM 1385 onto eastbound Highway 380, the new traffic signal at Magnolia and Highway 380 and the crosswalk over to Providence Elementary on FM 2931. The Highway 380 expansion will start in 2021, and I will continue to fight for additional funding for the FM roads adjacent to the highway.
What are the biggest issues concerning the state’s public education funding system, and what are your ideas to help fix them?
Last session, I coauthored the most significant investment in our public education system over the last 30 years. We invested $11 billion to shift more of the costs from the property taxpayer and onto the state. The result was higher teacher salaries, more dollars per student, lower property tax rates and a massive reduction in Robin Hood recapture payments. Though there will need to be some adjustments next session, this was a huge win for our schools.
I also authored a bill to reduce unfunded mandates from the state to our local school districts, which was signed into law by Governor Abbott last summer. The next huge step for public education is to move away from the federally-mandated standardized tests to a system which better recognizes the efforts of students and teachers. I led the effort to end them last school year and will do the same this school year.
Is more work needed for property tax reform? If so, what are your ideas?
Yes. Please see the items I’ve mentioned above. Otherwise, I’d like to see us work toward a constitutional amendment which secures our intent to move away from the penalizing property tax to a system which relies more heavily on consumption taxes. We shouldn’t tax folks based on unrealized gains on their property at all, but we must develop a way to replace it. The consumption tax is fairer and is spread across all consumers within the economy.
What would you suggest to help expand healthcare to Texans?
Before COVID-19 and the government response to the global pandemic, the Texas economy was soaring to new heights. We continually broke records for lowest unemployment overall, and lowest unemployment on record for women, African Americans and Hispanic Americans. Virtually all Texans were benefitting from the economic growth derived from conservative policies like lower taxes, fewer regulations and a stable legal environment. Releasing the somewhat dormant Texas economic miracle and allowing all Texans to succeed is the best way to expand healthcare access to all Texans.
I will fight for Medicaid to be returned to the state in the form of block grants so Texas can be more efficient with those dollars. We can reduce the cost of insurance through free market reforms like interstate compacts that allow people to buy healthcare across state lines. Big government takeover programs may expand “coverage” but fail to deliver the results struggling Texans need.
What are your ideas to help Texas recover from COVID-19, and what should the state do differently if another wave hits?
I absolutely applaud Texas front-line workers, first responders and healthcare professionals for the hard work and long hours they’ve put in to keeping Texans safe from COVID-19. There was no playbook for a global pandemic, especially as it affected some communities more others. They did a miraculous job.
That said, we have many lessons to learn from this experience. We will act next session to ensure we are able to more quickly identify the signs of a pandemic and also react differently. We will work to ensure our schools and local governments receive any additional federal funding available to reimburse them for costs associated with COVID-19. Finally, we will act to ensure the constitutional rights of Texans remain intact, during an emergency or otherwise.
What changes to the state’s gun laws, if any, would you support?
The times in which we live are dangerous. The far left in America is not only trying to take away your 2nd Amendment rights to protect yourself, your family and your property, but they are also actively working to defund our local police departments. I will stand against forces which aim to make our communities more dangerous and stand with those working to secure law and order. That’s why I’ve been endorsed by Denton County Sheriff Tracy Murphree and the Frisco Police Officers Association.
Many Democratic-run cities across America lead the nation in gun violence even though they have some of the strictest gun laws in the country. We need responsible Texans to have the ability to protect themselves, and we need fully-funded law enforcement officials keeping our communities safe. I will not support any law which violates your constitutional rights.