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 participated in a three-part debate that is being published in the Courier-Herald and Auburn Reporter. This is the part three of the State House debate. Part one was published in the Oct. 5 edition of the Courier-Herald, part two was published in the Oct. 12 edition and both can be found online at www.courierherald.com.
Question No. 1:
You may reply to or rebut your opponent’s answers to the part two questions or expand on your answers.
My opponent mentions my previous elections but fails to mention the amount of money it took to defeat me. Over $1.2 million was spend by my Democrat opponents and their special interests, many with nice names. What makes them so afraid of me? Last election they spent $294,000 to my $22,000 and barely won. When you have nothing to offer in the way of experience or solutions you respond with hit pieces. We can see that in the recent hit piece about somehow making money by writing checks to myself from my own company checking account. Not only does my opponent not understand the impact and cost of regulation, he apparently does not know how a checkbook works. You can expect to see at least three or more hit pieces because he has nothing to offer in the way of real world experience or solutions.
While I respect and honor his profession, I just don’t see how that field experience qualifies him to represent taxpayers.
Mr. Fortunato’s suggestions on transportation funding make no sense. We are not going to fund our roads off of people getting high on marijuana, nor should we be trying to do so. The point of marijuana legalization by the citizens was to stop the criminals and the criminal black market, not to get people to use more drugs. That was never the point of the citizen initiative. I do not think Mr. Fortunato’s idea to increase marijuana use in an effort to put more money into transportation is good public policy. That is a pipe dream that would be harmful to our communities and our kids.
As a first responder and professional firefighter, I know how harmful drugs can be to families and kids. Marijuana legalization by the citizens was never about the government trying to get more people to use more drugs. This is very unwise.
He also states that we can take operating budget money to fund transportation, but just think about what he is saying. That would mean cutting education to fund roads. That would also be irresponsible. We have an obligation to fund education and educate our kids; our future depends on it. In his other response, Mr. Fortunato said he would increase education funding, but when he talks about transportation, he talks about cutting education funding for transportation. You can’t promise everybody everything and not say how you will pay for it.
We need to properly fund education and we cannot cut education funding to build roads. We also need to attack the real cause of our ever-increasing transportation nightmare; out of control growth without infrastructure in place first. You cannot just throw money at transportation without addressing what is causing the problem in the first place, and that takes political courage.
Question No. 2:
Discuss your thoughts on tax breaks and subsidies designed to keep large employers in Washington state.
I am on record as strongly supporting a complete review of all corporate tax breaks and repealing ones that no longer work for the taxpayers. This is not a tax increase to anyone. Over the years we have developed tax beaks for certain businesses so they pay less than everyone else. Originally most of these had good ideas attached, but no one ever went back to see if they were still needed. In many cases they no longer work, and are not returning anything to you and me, the taxpayers.
Some tax breaks are working well and create many jobs. Some actually bring in more revenue than was cut. We need to keep those. But there are literally billions of dollars every budget cycle, some of them in tax packages from decades ago, that no longer produce anything, and those folks are not paying their fair share.
Look, everyone knows that billionaires pay far less in taxes than we in the middle class, and in some cases, they pay nothing at all. That is not fair to the rest of us. And no, they are not the job creators that Mr. Fortunato makes them out to be. We are the job creators, because we spend our money in our local communities and local small businesses. Most billionaires hide their money offshore to keep from paying taxes in the first place. It is the middle class consumers like us that not only pay taxes, but we also spend our income, and that is what creates jobs.
I strongly oppose an income tax, and we need to keep taxes lower for middle income earners, but those at the top, the tiny fraction of a percent who make the most money, the billionaires, need to pay their fair share.
I’m not a giant fan of special tax breaks for companies, not because they are bad, but because if it is good for Boeing why isn’t it good for all small business. Many small businesses are now competing on an international basis and providing lots of good paying jobs. Today’s small businesses are on the stock exchange tomorrow.
The Business and Occupation tax is one of my favorite taxes to hate. You have to pay a tax for the privilege of doing business in Washington even if you lose money. While I would represent the 31st District, your representative needs to look at issues statewide and their implications. All you have to do is go to Spokane and see the businesses that sited not in Washington, but just over the border. A lot of businesses bordering Oregon complain about Washington people crossing the border at the start of school or summer to take advantage of Oregon’s no sales tax. Once the education funding is worked out I would like to seriously look at reducing business taxes in the state to make us more competitive worldwide.
Question No. 3:
Describe what you believe are the most important issues in the 31st District and how will you address them if you are elected. Why are you the best candidate to take on these issues.
The most pressing problem facing the district is the threat of ever increasing taxes. We are all in agreement that government is needed for a society to function. I can’t build a water treatment plant or road to Seattle, but if we all get together we can. The problem comes in when government strays from the necessary functions of government into pet projects or other items to spend taxpayer money. That is why I support the two-thirds vote requirement to raise taxes.
The 31st District is largely rural. Lots of roads, not so much tax base. This makes funding needed road construction difficult, which is why I propose using the existing sales tax on motor vehicles in addition to the existing gas tax to fund roads which benefits our economy and our family time. ST3 doesn’t do it.
My opponent likes to talk about “empty sound bites that don’t get the job done”, but all he talks about is repeating the problem. When I talk about the impact of regulation, he talks about “unrestrained growth”, which by the way, is mandated by the Growth Management Act (GMA), which imposes mandatory growth projections on each city whether they want it or not. So what my opponent does not like is what GMA requires, or as he puts it a “failing policy”. His lack of understanding of how the economy works is evident when he says “letting builders off the hook” is the problem. The GMA imposed “impact fees” to cover these impacts to roads and schools. When impact fees went into effect the cost of new homes increased, as did the value of existing homes, along with your property taxes.
I have the business and economic and regulatory experience that make me an effective negotiator and taxpayer representative.
I am an optimist. All Americans should be. We are the greatest nation on earth and our potential is unlimited. I became a professional firefighter because I wanted to serve others and to help build an even better future. America has, and always will face challenges, but when some politicians try to tear us down and compare America to some third world country, don’t believe it. This kind of talk is sad. America is amazing and powerful. Our people are strong and resourceful.
Today, we are facing a crisis of confidence in our government, and this legislative race is about vision. Although I respect my opponent, our approach to governing and our vision could not be more different. Mr. Fortunato and Donald Trump see a dark and dismal America where everyone has a bleak and frightening future. I see the very opposite.
I will bring my optimism and vision to addressing the challenges of education, public safety, and transportation. I will use my lifetime dedication to public service to help us reach a bright future. We need elected officials who actually believe in America and our people. Our country is strong, our people are great, and our best days are ahead of us!