Republican candidates for the Arkansas District 9 Senate seat touched on topics that included minimum wage, taxes and the Affordable Care Act during a forum Thursday night at the Van Buren Public Library.

State Sen. Bruce Holland and State Rep. Terry Rice answered questions from moderator Rusty Myers and the public during the forum, hosted by the Van Buren Chamber of Commerce.

Holland and Rice were given two and half minutes each to answer the same predetermined questions about legislation affecting business and economic development, specifically in Van Buren and the River Valley area.

On many topics Rice and Holland held the same opinions, such as reducing taxes and regulations for small business owners, supporting job development and trade skill education, and voting against a minimum wage increase.

Both also agreed that the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, and Arkansas’ private option is one of the biggest issues facing Arkansans, but each had a different view on addressing it.

Rice is adamantly against all forms of Obamacare and would vote to defund the private option, he said.

"While I wish everybody had insurance, while I wish everybody had a new house and a new car, sometimes it is just not feasible," Rice said.

Holland voted in favor of the private option in former legislative sessions, and he stood behind his decision, calling it the best of three options.

"I think one of the biggest misconceptions about the Affordable Care Act is that it is law," Holland said. "Whether we do or we don’t do the private option, everyone in here is required to have healthcare."

He pointed out that going forward with the private option, rather than doing nothing or expanding Medicaid itself, allowed the state to accept federal money for the program and provide waivers to small businesses.

Holland is in favor of repealing the mandatory healthcare law at the federal level, but said it needs to be replaced with a better plan.

While Rice agreed that Medicaid needs to be reformed, he argued that the eventual costs for the state to maintain the private option would be "exorbitant."

"I’m going to tell you there will be people hurt, but we’ve got to make serious decisions," Rice said.

Holland noted that the public, often in the form of hospitals, already paid the costs for those who were without healthcare.

"Healthcare has a lot of challenges and one of those is uncompensated care when people go to the emergency room instead of to a clinic," Holland said.

At the end of the forum, each candidate spoke on why they are the best option to represent District 9 and expressed their passion for working in legislation, before taking questions from the public.

The race between Holland and Rice will be decided in the May 20 primary election.