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Q&A: Candidates for 40th District House, Position 1
The Journal of the San Juan Islands asked the candidates for 40th District state House of Representatives, Position 1, the following 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: THOMAS BOUCHER
Web site: www.electboucher.com
Residence: Mount Vernon
Occupation: Former district staff for Congressman Rick Larsen
Education: Graduated from Mount Vernon High School, Skagit Valley College and Western Washington University
Answer No. 1: In Olympia we need to continue to find savings for local governments, like HR 1597 that improves the administration of state and local tax programs, without impacting the tax collections. I will look for ways to reduce the cost or burden to local governments struggling during these tough economic times.
Answer No. 2: Invest in our transportation and infrastructure, putting families and businesses back to work. Closing some of the tax loopholes that no longer make sense or create the jobs that they were intended and use those savings to invest in businesses and industries that can begin hiring, expand programs to assist those that are trying to start up new businesses and make sure that we fund public education at all levels. Olympia also needs to make sure that Washington lives within its means by looking at every agency and function of government based on fiscal responsibility and priority, efficiency and performance.
Answer No. 3: Continue the work of the 2010 Legislature that began reforming WSF by changing the way labor contracts are negotiated and requiring far more transparency in the reimbursement policy. Current audits are being done on the management and financial problems that have plagued WSF and there will be a clearer picture and how to address them in Olympia. Olympia must continue to ensure transparency and accountability in the WSF to deliver sustainable transportation system.
Answer No. 4: Olympia needs to make sure that our state government lives within its means and close some of the tax loopholes that no longer make sense and use those funds for education. The Legislature has recently passed a number of promising reforms to public education in Washington, but we need to make sure that the funds are there to ensure the reforms are successful.
Answer No. 5: My top three priorities are making sure we have a state government that is prioritized and responsible during these tough economic times. Ensuring that we fund education at all levels so that our students are prepared to meet the challenges of tomorrow and keep Washington globally competitive. Investing in our transportation and infrastructure that is long overdue, putting people and businesses to work, addressing public safety and congestion, and helping to turn this economy around.
Name: CHUCK CARRELL
Web site: www.chuckcarrell.com
Occupation: Snohomish County Sheriff's Office, custody deputy
Education: Mariner High School, Everett Community College
Answer No. 1: I don't believe that we should be looking at new ways to raise people's taxes or "create revenue." I believe that all of our government agencies should be looking at ways to do things more efficiently and get back to the basics of what a government is supposed to do.
Answer No. 2: We need to look at ways to consolidate some of our programs and agencies so that they can be run more efficiently. One of the biggest problems in government, and especially right now, is the culture of "empire building" that still dominates most of the government managers thinking in government agencies.
The basic thinking in this culture is that once a program or staffing position is created, management will try to justify keeping it there forever, regardless of whether it is now obsolete or unnecessary. Voluntarily giving up their department resources would mean that their power will be reduced in relation to the other agencies.
Likewise, managers are still looking for ways to create new programs and staffing levels to increase their power among the other agencies despite our economic crisis. These are serious issues that need to be addressed in order to realistically balance our state budget.
This last year the state relied on grants (Federal tax dollars) to balance our budget. This is a false number-crunching game since it is still taxes paid by us, and the Federal government debt is already at an all-time high. Relying on those types of grants is unsustainable.
The other problem is political favor or "earmarks" for certain projects. These amount to nothing more than a political payoff for a special interest group, or trying to buy votes in a particular district through the promise of state tax dollars being spent on unnecessary projects and is essentially a welfare project for that area.
Despite a serious financial crisis with the state budget this year, these unethical legislators continued to do earmarks to gain political favor instead of doing what they are supposed to do to help the citizens of this state.
Answer No. 3: I would consider privatizing the management of the ferry system as long as there are safeguards in place that allows the state to oversee their operation. We need to make sure that those private companies are not cutting corners on the safety of the workers, passengers and to the environment.
One solution would be for the state to retain ownership of the ferries themselves and then lease them to a private company under certain conditions. If these conditions weren't met, then the state could revoke that companies lease agreement and either award the contract to a different company or if necessary, put the operational management back under the state.
This would allow the ferry system to be operated more efficiently but still have the safeguards to ensure that things will be done correctly and be respectful of the environment. This is especially true in the San Juan area because the ferry system is more than a convenience; it is essentially the roadways and the economic lifeline for the residents of the San Juan Islands.
Answer No. 4: I don't think the amount of money that we are spending on education is as critical of a problem as HOW we are spending the money. As taxpayers we need to start demanding more accountability on where the money is spent and how it is helping our children learn and be prepared to enter the work force when their schooling is over.
We need to have our annual testing system be a computerized SAT-style test. It is cost-efficient and gives the possibility of immediate feedback to the teachers within days instead of months. This would allow teachers to focus their resources on what the student needs to learn for that grade level and if necessary, retake any grade level tests to make sure they are proficient in the subject matter.
I would like to see some of the money spent for an online and/or DVD statewide instructional video that would be available for the student and their parents at home for each grade and subject. These instructional videos would cover all of the subject matter that is required of the student to pass that grade level.
I believe creating a statewide standardized instructional video would be the simplest, most cost effective way to help our students learn the essential materials required of them at each grade level. It would also allow parents to be involved in their children's education and help their children have an opportunity to reach their educational goals.
Answer No. 5: One, simplify and reduce our state tax system. Two, consolidate our state agencies and programs so that they run more efficiently. Three, encourage LOCAL business that create jobs through tax incentives and simplified paperwork for starting up and maintaining a business.
Name: DUSTY GULLESON
Web site: www.votedusty.com
Occupation: CEO of technology company, eResources
Education: BA History, George Mason University
Answer No. 1: Local governments should look first to streamline their budgets and services to their communities. The Legislature can help local communities by reviewing regulations and requirements that are not fiscally sustainable. In addition, the Legislature should make every effort to reduce unfunded mandates to counties.
Answer No. 2: Olympia must implement priorities in government and reform how government services are delivered. Shedding unnecessary government services such as the printing office, liquor stores, and reforming L&I will help greatly reduce the footprint of the state and cost to the taxpayer.
Answer No. 3: The ferry system should be looked at holistically and in part for privatization. A more efficient service is critical to ensuring a sustainable ferry system. It is obvious the state is not managing the ferry system effectively.
Answer No. 4: Educational fund should be segmented from the general fund and must be off limits to Legislatures. Innovation and local control of school budgets will help reduce waste and increase better outcomes for our kids.
Answer No. 5: Implement a balanced budget. Bring jobs and opportunity back to Washington. Pursue educational excellence.
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: DONNA MILLER
Web site: www.donnamillerforrep.com
Residence: Friday Harbor
Occupation: Office manager
Education: Life skills
Answer No. 1: It's challenging in these economic times. Tourism promotion brings revenue and money to the islands. Also, hiring locally works upward through government in the San Juans in taxes paid by consumers here. Also, off-season attractions will help.
Answer No. 2: We need to explore privatizing some services. We can get revenue as we promote tourism in other states. Keep Washington Green, "Bring Money." Cutting unnecessary spending is like a revenue increase. Increasing taxation on those who still have jobs is not good. It's a grassroots situation: personal responsibility from the people up, only taking what they actually need from the system. The state needs to be transparent and accountable. There can be no successful government without sound ethics from the ground up.
Answer No. 3: I've ridden the Ferries for almost 40 years. We appreciate the service the workers provide. The department heads need to be open and accountable for management practices. Research needs to be made into the tax allocations for ferries and whether tax dollars are diverted to other state projects. The ferries need to be maintained better, for example, painting.
Answer No. 4: Again, transparency and accountability are important. We all pay taxes, that's certain. Raising taxes has not been the cure in the past. Wise use of funds and making the state account for general funds.
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.
Name: TOM PASMA
Web site: www.tompasma.com
Occupation: Owner/operator, Double S Quarter Horse Ranch, Bow; professional auctioneer raising thousands for local charities and non-profits.
Education: Colorado State University, Equine Reproductive Management; Western School of Auctioneering
Answer No. 1: All local governments are facing a similar dilemma. The state budget has also been cut to the bone in the same way. Sales and property taxes are the major source of funding for local governments and can be increased if the local voters approve. Citizens must be willing to pay for the services they demand. Local governments can ask the Legislature for further taxing authority if needed. Frankly, with the state budget facing even deeper cuts in the next biennium, local government cannot look to the state budget for help.
Answer No. 2: It will be very difficult to reduce spending further. The state is mandated to fully fund public education and is far behind in this duty. Other large costs are for criminal justice/prisons and social services and Medicaid. Cuts to Department of Ecology, Natural Resources, Fish and Wildlife and Parks save very few dollars and have a huge detrimental impact on our quality of life. One way to increase revenue is to do away with outdated tax breaks, which need to be considered in the next budget process.
I support the Priorities of Government (POG) approach to the budget. This process identifies the essential services of each agency. Those that are most critical will be funded to the extent possible. This process has already started and the Governor is leading the effort.
Answer No. 3: First, we have to acknowledge that the ferries are as much a part of the state highway system as the Alaskan Way Viaduct, Lake Washington bridges, the mountain passes and the roads and highways in Eastern Washington. We all depend on our transportation links and we all need to pay for system development and maintenance. The ferry system has been neglected and short-changed for a very long time — going back further than the brutal cuts after I-695. As a state, we need to find a source for funding that will make our system sustainable and I will work to find that solution.
There are significant issues that need to be dealt with in the management of the system. I am no expert on these issues, but I will work to dig out the root causes which have led to the ongoing problems.
One thing I do not support is privatization of the system. I haven’t heard of any entrepreneurs who are asking to take on the huge burden of building, maintaining and operating this complex system. And certainly no one would do it unless they could make a profit. I wonder what ferry fares would have to be to generate a profit for private business?
Answer No. 4: I believe that the Legislature must fund education first. It is our duty to our children and our future as a society. The founders of our state recognized that well-educated citizens are our best resource and our wisest investment. The Quality Education Council, which was set up in 2009, is working on this issue and I will follow their guidance.
Answer No. 5: Strengthen our local economies; preserve our farmland and sustainable agriculture; quality educational opportunities for all our children such as the new NW Career and Technical Academy in Mount Vernon and Anacortes.