Q&A: Candidates for 40th District House, Position 2
July 16, 2010 · 10:59 AM
The Journal of the San Juan Islands asked the candidates for 40th District state House of Representatives, Position 2, 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: HOWARD PELLETT
Web site: www.pellett.org
Residence: Guemes Island (mailing address Anacortes)
Occupation: Retired, former Internal Revenue agent for 39 1/2 years
Education: BS degree, Business Administration with Accounting option
Answer No. 1: It takes money to support government social programs. The right wing has successfully duped folks into thinking "government is the problem" and has slowly attacked public services, but not the military/industrial complex or Wall Street. They have gone too far; witness their recent blatant attack on Social Security and Medicare. Now that the time to repay the peoples' trust fund has arrived, the politicians instead propose to cut Social Security benefits to the elderly and the needy.
The people are beginning to see through the right wing and take the action that our corrupt politicians will not take by getting an initiative on the ballot for an income tax to tax the rich. Our state legislators need to step up to the problem and pass the initiative for an income tax on the rich. There is a need to share revenue sources with local governments to preclude the need for further cuts in social services.
Answer No. 2: I am uncertain that further cuts in state spending are indicated, given that many of the cuts target necessary social services. A committee of citizens from all walks of life should be formed to take a look at state income and state expenditures. The committee would meet at numerous locations throughout the state and would make recommendations to the Legislature concerning retention of programs judged to be essential to the public good and funding sources to support the programs. Nothing would be considered "off the table" and all citizen committee meetings would be well advertised and open to the public. Issues such as a broad state progressive income tax would certainly be "on the table."
There is a crying need for a more progressive, more stable tax system in Washington State and I would support a fair and transparent process to reach such a result.
Answer No. 3: Our ferries are fraying community lifelines, strands of Washington State Highways as vital as every bridge span and mountain passage. Here are some broad ideas based on the Green Party Key Values:
— Ecological Wisdom. Similar to energy, the ferries' best paybacks remain conservation, efficiencies and smart load management.
— Grassroots Democracy. Means more options, efficient allocation and system resilience.
— Future Focus. Leads to secure funding, slashed wait times, attractive and practical walk-ons and lighter-touch ferries running full.
— Personal and Global Responsibility. Greens pioneered fare-neutral proposals for peak/off-peak sailings, fuel-saving slower runs, alternative fuels and under 18' fare and reservations to relieve landing congestion.
— Decentralization and Community Based Economics. To replace failed system wide fares with fares with flexible structures for unique community priorities.
— Social Justice. Means ferry served communities have priority loading for medical appointments, restoration of kids fares and frequent user discounts structure toward islanders.
Answer No. 4: State income tax Initiative 1098, directing the proceeds from the initiative to education and health care, is a good start, if it passes. However, it is an understandable timid approach to the budgetary problems that face Washington State. It's currently regressive tax model is doomed to a boom-and-bust pattern because of its narrow scope of property tax, unfair business and occupation tax and property tax which fall mainly on the middle class and is thus inequitable. See my response to Question No. 2 for my view on how the program issues should be discerned and how the tax model should be changed.
Answer No. 5: One, campaign finance reform which would remove the money from politics and combat the corruption that causes politicians to act not in our interests. While the plans differ by locality, the general reform requires that candidates who elect public financing obtain the signatures of a number of citizens along with a nominal political donation to qualify for public financing. Achieving public financing allows more folks to run for office, ensures that the voices of all citizen are more likely to be heard and eliminates the "dialing for dollars" preoccupation by candidates.
Two, move to revoke corporate "personhood" is a movement resulting from the Citizens United v FEC, a Supreme Court decision which perpetrated the wrongheaded "corporate personhood" issue and allowed corporations to make unlimited contributions to political campaigns.
Three, the Climate Stewardship proposal spearheaded by NASA's James Hansen would establish a carbon tax, the proceeds to be returned to households, in order to fight climate change.
Name: JEFF MORRIS
Web site: www.morriscampaign.com
Residence: Mount Vernon
Occupation: Owner/Principal, Energy Horizon LLC
Education: BA, Central Washington University
Answer No. 1: This past session, we allowed Cities to seek voter approval to impose the public safety sales and use tax at a rate not to exceed 0.1 percent and allowed local gambling revenue to be used for general public safety programs. We need to put more tools in the local government tool box.
Answer No. 2: We need to go back to the Price of Government budgeting we did under Gov. Locke. Under that model, every agency would prioritize its services and if the top 10 fit into their allocated amount of money, they would deliver them and drop the rest. Our debate in the Legislature surrounded the prioritizing of the list and the appropriate allocation of money to each agency. We performed better as a State under this system.
I have been a consistent advocate of functional delivery of IT services and other universal need services because it saves money. For example, central or functional delivery of IT services would conservatively save us a $250 million per year, but I believe it saves us much more.
I am currently working on developing Prime Directives for our budget decisions that would, for example, protect state employees that provide face-to-face service, while putting other positions on the table for debate. This would mean cutting overhead/management before closing the Friday Harbor Department of Licensing.
Answer No. 3: Just last week, Rep. Christine Rolfes of Bremerton and I were put in charge of developing a path out of this swamp. I have fought, fought and fought the WSF management for years on reforms, many of which they have accepted after 10 years of engagement. My recommendations are as follows:
— We need to restore funding for the WSF capitol budget to bring planning predictability back.
— We need to move toward the U.S. Government National Laboratory model and contract the management of the ferry service to the private sector, putting it back up for procurement every six years.
— We need to get the new 144-car boats in the water, which would save us fuel and crewing costs that currently impact ferry fares. The Supers running in the islands are fuel and man-hour hogs.
Answer No. 4: Our greatest challenge has been reconciling several spending or tax reduction initiatives that pass on the ballot each year. A constitutional amendment that would make initiatives balance the budget with cuts or taxes they propose would go a long ways toward protecting K-12 funding.
Answer No. 5:
— Get the ferry service functional again.
— Follow-through on K-12 school reform and funding.
— Continue streamlining our education and tax policies. Washington is leading the other 50 states out of the recession, so we need to continue streamlining our education and tax policies with the jobs we are actually creating here. Hiring people for these jobs is critical. As a leader in technology policy, I can tell you that we are not filling the jobs we are creating with citizens already living here in Washington State.
Name: JOHN SWAPP
Web site: www.johnswapp2010.com
Residence: Decatur Island, Wash.
Occupation: Business owner
Education: Western Washington University, BS in Manufacturing Engineering Technology
Answer No. 1: These moves by local governments are similar to the moves made by individuals and small business owners as they have responded to the failing economy. With our economy having been badly damaged, we realistically need to look for cuts in government spending in virtually every department. As we have seen many times in our history, reducing taxes and regulations in the business community stimulates economic growth, resulting in increased revenue collection. Increasing taxes at this point would only stifle job creation and economic growth.
Answer No. 2: The State Legislature will need to look closely at every budget line item that has grown in the last eight years in order to see what cuts we must make to get State spending back in line with what the people can afford to pay. We must do this while preserving the most important government services such as police and fire protection and education.
Answer No. 3: When you operate complicated machinery in a saltwater environment, you can’t safely cut costs in the area of maintenance. We should look closely at the growth in administration staffing we’ve seen over the last decade and make our cost cuts there.
Answer No. 4: The money spent on education has grown every year, yet about one-third of our students don’t finish high school and many others need remedial math and science classes when entering college. Our education system is among the poorest-performing in the nation yet also one of the most expensive. Clearly, the problem lies in the massive and expensive bureaucracy, not in a lack of funding. Only 46 percent of employees are actually classroom teachers, and the Legislature keeps setting aside voter-approved initiatives to lower class size. The priority should be to help the classroom teachers, not unfunded mandates from the federal government.
Answer No. 5: Top priorities will be:
— Get state spending back in line with state income, just like we all have to do as individuals.
— Create a business environment that will promote the creation of jobs. This will involve easing regulations, reducing taxes and allowing private businesses to compete in supplying industrial insurance.
— Follow the clear intent of the voters to require a 2/3 vote of the Legislature to increase taxes.