Candidate Q&A: Steve Van Luven, 40th District state Senate

Steve Van Luven ... Republican candidate for 40th District state Senate. - Richard Walker
Steve Van Luven ... Republican candidate for 40th District state Senate.
— image credit: Richard Walker

The Journal’s series of Candidate Q&As continues with candidates for 40th District state Senate. The 40th District comprises San Juan County and parts of Whatcom and Skagit counties, from Bellingham/Lake Whatcom to Mount Vernon. Senators serve four-year terms. Their annual salaries are $42,106 (effective Sept. 1) and they receive health benefits.

Steve Van Luven

1. Education and background: Born in Bellingham, came to Samish Island one week after birth. Family roots are 120 years Whatcom County, 80 years Skagit County.

Previously served 17+ years in the state House of Representatives for 48th District. Served seven years as chairman of the House International Trade and Economic Development Committee.

Wrote/sponsored/negotiated economic development legislation for projects totaling well over $1 billion, creating thousands of jobs for R&D, high-tech, biotech and manufacturing industries. This brought to Washington the largest private investment project in state history.

Sponsored legislation benefiting film, video and movie industry.

Worked and/or lived in China, Japan, Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, New York City.

Business owner many years in import/export business between China and Mexico.

Captain, U.S. Army Finance Corps.

B.A. Communications, MBA International Management

Eagle Scout.

Fluent in Spanish.

2. Ferries are part of the islands’ lifeline to the mainland. How can the Legislature ensure the state’s ferries are adequately funded and maintained?

The Legislature has not properly taken care of the ferry/highway system. We have a crisis and our islands need an experienced legislator going to the Senate. I am that person.

I am respected on both sides of the aisle. I previously served on the Transportation Committee. Now is not the time for an inexperienced person to go to the Senate. Candidates can make promises, but I have a track record of watching out for our ferry system. I will continue to protect your interests in Olympia.

I was the only Senate candidate that recently attended and participated in the state Ferry Advisory Committee public meetings in Anacortes and Friday Harbor. I understand your concerns on fare increases, parking costs, reservations, better service and more ferries. I will fight for you.

(When the Washington State Transportation Commission proposed shutting down the Anacortes-Sidney ferry run in 1997, then-Rep. Steve Van Luven introduced legislation and with the power of his committee chairmanship held hearings in Olympia and stopped the closure.

Anacortes, Skagit County and Vancouver Island were thankful that Steve, in a bipartisan effort, preserved this vital ferry run and international link. The people of San Juan County were also thankful because they knew if this route were eliminated that they would probably see decreased ferry service inter-island also.)

3. Article IX Section I of the state Constitution states, “It is the paramount duty of the state to make ample provision for the education of all children residing within its borders ...” What should the Legislature do to ensure it meets its obligation to “make ample provision for the education of all children”?

Education is stated in the state Constitution as our paramount duty to fund. However, when the budget is written, education is thrown into the pot to fight for every dollar it gets. That is wrong.

When writing the education budget, there should be two questions. No. 1: Should we fund education more, same or less than last time? No. 2: How much? Then that amount is set aside and the Legislature can proceed to write the rest of the budget.

Only education is a paramount duty, nothing else. Let’s handle it that way.

We need to redefine “basic education.”

4. Does the Growth Management Act need to be revised? Please explain.

As a former legislator, I voted “yes” when the GMA was passed. GMA is a “work in progress.” I am not always happy with GMA and problems it has caused, but I believe it has saved the region’s farmland from being developed.

No major legislation is ever perfect. GMA is not perfect. It needs constant updating to work with our growing economy.

5. A rescue tug has been proven effective in preventing groundings and spills by distressed vessels. What should the Legislature do to ensure that a year-round rescue tug is adequately funded?

The Legislature is not adequately funding ferries or education. The Legislature will find it difficult to fund the tug every year. A funding source will require much creative innovation and thinking. Anyone can propose solutions for funding, but the key is to find a solution that will actually pass the Legislature.

6. What should voters in the San Juan Islands expect from you if you’re elected? What are your priorities?

a) I am surprised environment-conscious islanders have not put more effort into stopping the Victoria sewage pollution. With the 2010 Olympics coming, we have an opportunity. I want no more studies and very little talking. Politicians will talk and study this issue to death and it will take forever. I want decisions and results now, not later.

During my 17+ years in the House of Representatives, I was directly involved in passing some of the biggest legislative issues ever in our state. I know how to do it and I know how to get results. I am glad current commissioner candidates are showing an interest in this. Together we can get this done.

Half of my family resides in British Columbia and a cousin served 20 years in the B.C. Legislative Assembly. I still have some very valuable B.C. contacts. (I can also remind the Victoria politicians/leaders that I am the former legislator that saved the Anacortes-Sidney ferry run several years ago.)

b) Being responsive and available to my constituents and their concerns, problems and suggestions is a priority to me. I understand the maze of state bureaucracy. You can’t learn that overnight.

c) Helping other legislators understand why we should not put new taxes on our already burdened citizens during an uncertain economy. This is especially hard on fixed-income citizens. Our economy and increasing costs for food and fuel for autos and household heating are having serious effects on families, schools, businesses, farmers and local governments.

d) Education is the paramount duty of the state, so it is everyone’s No. 1 priority.

e) I want to reduce excessive state regulations, protect property rights and review the property tax structure.

f) Many candidates will tell you what they would do if elected. I am different. I been there and I have a public record and a proven track record of what I actually have done. I don’t just talk about it during campaign times, I actually have produced results. Some people talk. I take action and gets things done.  

7. What issues unique to the San Juans and to the rest of the 40th District need to be addressed by the Legislature?

Cost and availability of health care and insurance.

Due to my business and legislative background, economic development — which includes jobs, workers, business community, higher education, the environment and transportation — would be a priority. No other candidate has my hands-on experience and successes of actually creating thousands of jobs and stimulating Washington’s economy.

I was a leader in the state when I was in the House and when I go to the Senate I will again be a leader on economic development and trade issues. I can bring benefits to our area like no other legislator.

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