Editor’s note: Lane Walthers and Phil Fortunato are seeking the 31st District State House Position No. 2 seat, which is an open position. The two candidates are participating in a three-part debate that is being published in the Courier-Herald and Auburn Reporter. This is the part two of the State House debate. Part one was published in the Oct. 5 edition of the Courier-Herald and it can be found online at www.courierherald.com.
Question No. 1:
You may respond to or rebut your opponent’s answer to Question No. 1 from last week or add any thoughts or ideas you have concerning the issue.
• Last Week’s Question No. 1
The Washington 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, without distinction or preference on account of race, color, caste or sex.”
Please explain how you think the state Legislature should proceed with funding education following the State Supreme Court’s McCleary ruling and order of contempt.
Although it is true that lawmakers made progress in funding education, it’s not where it needs to be. Investing in our children’s future is an investment in the future of everyone. You cannot say that the task is near completion when class sizes are too high and teacher salaries do not match those of other states who hire some of our best teachers away. Serious problems call for honest talk, tough solutions and problem solvers, not sound bites and empty rhetoric like housing allowances. Duct tape will not fix this problem.
Inequalities between rich and rural districts would be better addressed by the levy swap proposal. This idea has been gaining traction in the last couple of years and I will support it in Olympia. Equaling out school levies will make sure that kids in all districts get the same quality education no matter where they live. Here in the 31st District, this is very important to us. Our kids are just as important as kids in Bellevue.
The concept that we can just fund education and skip everything else is also a hollow promise that actually puts us all at risk. We need police, a strong criminal justice system, firefighters, good roads, safe drinking water and a legislature that protects consumers and our food supply. If we don’t provide vital services for people struggling with mental illness, our communities will suffer.
Education is important, but we also need a safe society.
As a fiscal conservative, I feel very strongly that we need to spend taxpayer money wisely and account for every dollar. However, we also need to make sure that everyone is paying his or her fair share. For too long, the middle class has been paying their taxes while billionaires pay little or nothing. This needs to change.
The other area that needs to be addressed is the cost of state regulation on education. Just like regulation adds costs to businesses, it does the same for education. The difference is that businesses scream about the cost of regulation while schools just ask for more money to be in compliance. Clarifying regulations so district know exactly what to do to be in compliance can save thousands and put more money in the classroom. Awards should be offered for teachers or administrators that come up with creative cost saving ideas.
While my opponent has stated the problem he has not really proposed any solutions.
Question No. 2:
Transportation issues have become some of the most difficult problems facing cities and the 31st District. Examples include 1) traffic congestion in the Auburn area on state Route 167 and 2) increasing congestion on SR 164, SR 169 and on SR 410 between Enumclaw and Buckley going over the White River Bridge.
What programs, bills or budget actions would you support in the Legislature to provide any solutions to the transportation issues in the 31st District and how would you suggest the Legislature fund the solutions?
Our district is largely rural and is not high on the list for road projects. We need help on all our district roads to get home to our families. But just stating the problem is no solution.
It is no secret that our roads are in bad shape and the state has failed to adequately fund them. After passing yet another gas tax, the Legislature is now looking at a Mileage Tax or and additional Sales Tax on top of the gas tax. I don’t know about you but I don’t want the government putting a gps in my car to know where I am going nor is it any of their business. These additional taxes hurt our economy by reducing spendable income and hurts low-income families the most.
The problem is the gas tax is the current funding system, for roads, bridges and ferries (docks and boats are considered part of the highway system and paid for with the gas tax.). The only way to get more revenue is to sell more gas. As the price of gas goes up, people buy less gas or more fuel efficient cars or electric cars and the revenue goes down, but the cost of construction is increasing with inflation. We need an inflation linked funding source.
I propose to dedicate the sales tax from the sale of motor vehicles to the gas tax account, which is constitutionally protected for roads. This would not only adjust the revenue stream to compensate for inflation, people are going to buy more cars or electric cars, but would require a less than 0.5 percent cut in state spending which can be offset by the increased revenue predicted from marijuana taxes. We would in effect be funding new roads with marijuana revenue.
This is another example of a problem where empty sound bites don’t get the job done. We need to stop ignoring the real problem of completely unrestrained growth that is far outpacing our infrastructure.
Simply put, people are moving here and development is happening more quickly that we can build roads to deal with it. At this rate we will destroy our economy and quality of life.
Our communities were once historic rural farming communities. I know that everything changes, but the development out here cannot continue at this rate without proper infrastructure in place first. We need to build roads and infrastructure, then development. We are doing it backwards. No amount of money will help unless we reverse this failing policy.
If I as a firefighter and first responder can’t get to accidents, fires or aid calls because of too much traffic, people are in danger. You can’t even get from Enumclaw to Buckley at 3:30 in the afternoon in under a half hour most days now. Our quality of life is quickly fading away. Greedy developers don’t care and local governments are not requiring planned growth with infrastructure in place first.
For anyone to say that we just need more efficiency in government or our Department of Transportation, or somehow we just need fewer regulations of one sort or another is complete nonsense. It ignores the real problem and tough solutions that we need to solve this. Ever increasing traffic congestion is imperiling our economy and quality of life. We cannot address this disaster without addressing completely unrestrained growth without infrastructure.
Local governments must stop shifting these costs to taxpayers by constantly letting developers off the hook for the true costs of roads and infrastructure. We must hold them accountable and that is what I plan to do.
Question No. 3
This is the open-ended question. What issues or ideas are facing the 31st District or state that should be addressed by the Legislature?
Unfortunately our district is suffering from the same distrust of politicians that the rest of the country is struggling with right now. This is sad to me because I love this country and our community. Even so, I am very optimistic about our future and the future of our kids. That is part of the reason why I became a professional firefighter. It’s why I am running for office for the very first time in this race.
It is also true that I do not have the campaign experience of my opponent. This is his sixth time running for office. He was elected in 1998 to the Legislature in the 47th Legislative District, and then was voted out of office only two years later in 2000 by those same citizens. He ran again for the Legislature in 2002 in that same district, and the voters told him that they did not want him back. He lost that election. Then, he ran for the King County Council in 2003 and the voters rejected him for that position. In 2014 he decided to try to get elected to the legislature in our district where people didn’t know his past. He ran against our Representative Christopher Hurst. Our voters in the 31st District also rejected him and he lost again. Now he is trying to get elected for the sixth time after being voted out of office by another legislative district and being rejected by citizens from three different jurisdictions.
Although I respect my opponent, I am offering something very different. I am not a career politician. This is my first time running. I am a professional firefighter and I want to bring my vision of service and community to this place that I love so much and have served throughout my career.
One of my main concerns as a father and parent is Parents Rights. You have a right to know about your children. A child under the age of 18 needs a parent’s permission to get a tattoo or piercing, but a parent needs a 14-year old’s permission to get their medical records. Since when is a 14-year-old competent to make medical decisions that may have long term implications. Parents have a right to know if their child is on drugs or has had a medical procedure without them knowing.
As a past legislator I ran legislation to prevent doctors from keeping a child’s medical information from their parents, but this was defeated by my opponent’s party who called it “a bitter pill.” I also sponsored an amendment to the teen driver bill to notify parents when their child gets a traffic infraction. Since then, over 58,000 parents have been notified about their child’s dangerous driving, allowing parents to take away the keys before a tragedy strikes. I will be a strong advocate for parents’ rights.
The other problem families face is being taxed to death. This year they are discussing an income tax, carbon tax and a mileage tax. Where is this money coming from? When you reduce spendable income you also hurt the economy and people lose jobs. Seniors on fixed incomes are particularly hurt.
This is a critical year for our state. So many important issues are hitting critical mass, and this district’s election could be the tipping point on who has the majority in the House of Representatives. I am a strong supporter of the two-thirds vote to raise taxes with a constitutional amendment and I will oppose a state income tax.