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Q&A: Candidates for 40th District House, Position 1
Kristine Lytton and Mike Newman are candidates for the 40th District state House of Representatives, Position 1, on the Nov. 2 ballot.
Earlier in the campaign, The Journal asked them these questions:
1. Friday Harbor and San Juan County have cut staffing, reduced services, and implemented unpaid furloughs to balance their budgets. What new revenue sources are available to local governments?
2. In what ways can the state Legislature further reduce state spending, increase state revenues, and ensure adequate levels of public services?
3. Washington State Ferries has been beset by financial and management problems. What are your recommendations for solving those problems?
4. Education funding: What are your recommendations for ensuring the Legislature meets its constitutional obligation to adequately fund public education?
5. What would be your top three priorities as a state representative?
Here are their answers.
Name: KRISTINE LYTTON
Web site: www.KristineLytton.com
Occupation: President of the Anacortes School Board
Education: Kristine attended Southern Illinois University, the University of Missouri and Lewis & Clark Community College in Godfrey, Ill.
Answer No. 1: Throughout the state, our counties are the ground zero of this recession: it is where we are hurting the most. Our counties are what people count upon most in terms of services: public safety, the courts, public health, transportation to and from the islands and environmental protection. We can’t just say that “Oh, well, it’s the recession,” and turn our backs on the reason why we have government.
It is at the county level where I support additional revenue collection – first from the federal government which keeps promising but has not delivered, then from state (which is where I intend to help bring more revenues to us if elected) and then from our own pocketbooks if necessary. An ongoing discussion with our citizens about the level of services wanted and the taxes we are willing to pay is something I see missing in today’s politics. This is a discussion that I think has to happen for our State to succeed.
Answer No. 2: As a school board director, I have experience in cutting costs and staying focused on service delivery to our students. I am in favor of working with labor, riders, ferry staff and potentially many others to identify and make needed improvements and cost reductions.
Time and time again, I have found that labor leaders are willing to put needed cuts and efficiencies on the table – and it is to them I will ask to help us balance a budget. Equal percentage cuts to all agencies means we do nothing well. This has been the short-term strategy which I think is failing us: taxpayers deserve to see us do the most important services better, not just cut everything another 15 percent.
Answer No. 3: Commuters, businesses, and schools all depend on our ferries: they are the heart of our county’s independent lifestyle. Reliable, efficient and sustainable transportation cannot be compromised.
We need to reduce the wasteful practices within the system: that’s the obvious first step. Given our current contracts, it’s a very difficult political challenge, but even state ferry workers now seem willing to put efficiencies and savings on the table – which I will continue to challenge them to do.
I support Governor Gregoire’s approach of asking the tough questions to ensure that taxpayer money is well-spent. We are facing a $3 billion shortfall in the next budget cycle; we need to make difficult decisions to keep our budget balanced and our spending sustainable.
Privatization of some of the ferry operations is an option we should explore. Before I would support privatization of the ferry system I would want a very clear understanding of the expected benefits. This would include both financial and customer service level impacts.
Answer No. 4: Education is “the paramount duty” of the state of Washington. We need to meet our constitutional obligation and make our schools the lifeline for tomorrow’s jobs. We are barely getting by, with the dropout rate an embarrassment for a state like ours. Structural change is needed to produce accountability for questionably performing schools; incentives need to be put in place to keep good teachers; and we need to connect the dots between our kids, their families and our schools in setting expectations for all three.
Answer No. 5: First and foremost, we need to get our State House in order. The political partisanship is painful to watch and wasteful at a time when we need to be running at maximum efficiency.
I also believe waiting for the recession to end so we can go back to the budgets we had five years ago is not going to happen in the near future. We have built systems beyond our capacity to sustain them. Some things are going to have to go so we can do key services better:
— Education. We need to build a better future for the next generation. We need curriculums which are challenging to our students and to implement efficiency upgrades so we aren’t just replicating yesterday’s programs when the kids are demanding much more.
— Economic reality planning. Creating new jobs from agriculture to tourism, from small retail business to new tech centers, from home-based businesses to health care jobs: the 40th Legislative District is a rich potential of tomorrow’s jobs, but too often the job training dollars only get to the big cities. I’ll demand more for jobs here.
— Environment. Conserving our natural resources, cleaning up the pollution, being ready for oil spills and being good stewards. In times of recession, the environment often takes the back seat – we just can’t let this happen!
* * *
Name: MIKE NEWMAN
Web site: www.mikenewman2010.com
Residence: Mount Vernon
Occupation: Realtor, retired Boeing machinist
Education: Sehome High School, 1972; WSU
Answer No.1: We are beyond the point of looking for new revenue sources. The time has come to look at government, determine which services are critical, which can be done for less money in the private sector, and which are simply unnecessary.
We are taxing and regulating private enterprise out of Washington. Companies, such as Boeing, and their employees provide the revenue that funds government. We are strangling the “golden goose.” Even Gov. Gregoire is admitting that the tax and spend policies of her administration and the Democrat-controlled legislature are not sustainable and that government must be reformed. All levels of government need to examine the services they provide and prioritize those services. Low priority items will need to be defunded.
Answer No. 2: We need to identify “adequate levels of public services.” Increasing revenue, in the short term, is not an option. We must fund the items that we are constitutionally required to fund; everything else must be looked at. We must reduce administration costs by returning authority to local jurisdictions, and we must get the state out of activities that the private sector can do better, at a lower cost.
As we reduce the cost of government, and lower tax rates, we put more money back into the hands of individuals. This money will be spent or invested creating more opportunity, more jobs, and more revenue for the state.
Answer No. 3: Washington State Ferries should be a source of pride for Washingtonians. They should be a tourist draw. For years the state ferry system has reacted, rather than planned. We order new boats when the Coast Guard finds ours to be unseaworthy. You cannot run a successful enterprise in this manner.
We need a long-term plan that includes replacement of our very inefficient fleet with a more modern fleet. We need to examine the contracts of our unionized workers and look at out sourcing labor, management, or possibly both, while the State maintains ownership of the system. The cost of this system, combined with our economic constraints, mean that all options must not only be on the table, but under the microscope.
Answer No. 4: Fully funding public education is not only a constitutional mandate, but the people, through initiatives (that have been suspended by the majority party) have said repeatedly that they want education funded.
Education has long been the stimulus for new taxes, as the supporters of these new taxes say the money will be used for education. Somehow it never seems to work out that way. The lottery was to replace special levies for school construction and even the property tax was to go to fund public education.
I will propose a constitutional amendment to dedicate both the lottery money and the state portion of the property tax to fund education. We also need to reduce our costs for administration; 53 percent of our education dollars are used for administration. Our schools (in Skagit and Whatcom counties) can utilize the public transportation system and reduce the number of school buses needed. There are a lot of opportunities for increasing efficiency.
— Stabilize our budget process by prioritizing state services, and privatizing those that can be done better and less expensively by the private sector. Elimination of budget items that provide little or no benefit to the people of Washington.
— Create an environment that encourages businesses to start or expand in Washington rather than in South Carolina, Utah, or a foreign country. Phasing out of the B&O tax, allowing private companies to compete with the state for workman’s compensation insurance, and re-doing our cumbersome permitting process, would be my top priorities.
— Fully fund K-12 education once and for all with a constitutional amendment.