The Courier-Herald this week looks at the Position 1 race for the House of Representatives in the 31st Legislative District. Next week, the race for the Position 2 seat will be examined.
By Kevin Hanson-The Courier-Herald
Both Dan Roach and Ron Weigelt agree that voters should take a close look at the past eight years before making their selection for the Position 1 race in the 31st Legislative District.
Roach, a Bonney Lake Republican, has served four, two-year terms in Olympia and is asking voters to send him back for another term in the House of Representatives. Weigelt, a Democrat who hails from Buckley, argues that it’s time for a change.
The race will be decided during the Nov. 4 general election. Neither was opposed in the primary.
Roach maintains he has been an advocate for the average citizen, a member of the minority party railing against increased government spending.
“For eight years I’ve voted against bloated budgets and tax increases,” he said. “If you want your pocketbook taken care of, I’m a good vote.”
Weigelt, who calls himself a “fiscal conservative and social moderate,” believes he’s the better candidate to keep tabs on peoples’ tax dollars.
“I’ll hold bureaucrats accountable with performance audits and put some real teeth behind it,” he said. “I’ll come down real hard on the side of that.”
Both candidates appeared Thursday morning at a forum sponsored by the Enumclaw Chamber of Commerce, then met privately with The Courier-Herald.
Roach agrees that the economy will dominate talk in Olympia as lawmakers gather in January, charged with drafting a two-year spending plan for the state. He points out that he voted “no” on the budget that was passed two years ago, fearing that it planned expenditures would soon be exceeding revenues by a two-to-one margin.
Those fears have been realized, he said, to the tune of a budget deficit now advertised as $3.2 billion. It will likely climb to $3.7 billion by the time Janaury rolls around, he said.
His answer is to look at new programs instituted during the last two years and cut back on things not absolutely necessary. He staunchly opposes the idea of going to the public for more money to slice into the deficit.
“The urge to raise taxes is going to be unbelievably high,” he said, noting that property taxes are probably off limits because legislators worry about public backlash. But, he figures, estate taxes and so-called “sin taxes” (levied on gambling, alcohol and tobacco) will be targeted.
Acknowledging the tight budgets felt in most homes, Roach said, “Now is the absolute worst time to raise taxes.”
Roach remains opposed to the way the state’s business and occupation tax is levied, but admits a change is not likely. The B and O taxes businesses on their gross revenues, rather than net profits, meaning business pay even if they’re not profitable.
Looking within the state budget, Roach is among those who favors an overhaul of the state’s Department of Social and Health Services.
“It’s a huge bureaucracy with no oversite,” he said, noting that DSHS ranks No. 2 when it comes to state spending, trailing only public education.
Individual caseworkers deal with heavy work loads, he said, while the agency is topheavy with middle management. The result can be disastrous, he said, especially when children slip through the cracks in the system and wind up as victims.
When it comes to public education, Roach speaks of maintaining “high standards” but is no fan of the current Washington Assessment of Student Learning.
Those in charge of public education “try to get one answer to solve all problems,” Roach said. He would prefer a system with options to measure success. “If a student had good SAT scores, why bother with the WASL?” he asks.
Roach also is a fan of creating “skills centers” for students showing vocational aptitude but are not necessarily college-bound. He believes the concept will receive bipartisan support in Olympia.
Weigelt is presently active in local politics, having served on the Buckley City Council since 2003. He has been a city resident since 2001.
The biggest issue facing the state during the coming legislative session will be the ongoing “crisis in the confidence people have in our system and in our government,” the challenger said. “And there’s good reason for it.”
He believes politicians at the state level could have taken steps years ago to help ward off the current difficulties, but cites “collusion between lobbyists and politicians” for a lack of action.
“It was basically greed” that led to the current meltdown, he said, noting that bankers continued making money available after all the conventional loans had been satisfied.
As a commuter who works in Seattle and relies on public transportation, Weigelt argues that state lawmakers can intervene and help make a system more efficient that will get automobiles off crowded highways.
“It’s just ridiculous,” he said, that riders cannot move easily between Enumclaw and Bonney Lake, for example. “It’s just an example of poor governance.”
The candidate also believes the state can do more to assure that local communities are adequately compensated when developers come calling. If more homes are going to be built and infrastructure will be stretch by the added population, he said, cities need the money to make improvements.
“You can pass laws to help cities with these unfunded mandates,” he said.
Turning to the state of public education, Weigelt agrees that the WASL will remain the hot button issue. He doesn’t mind the continued tinkering the system is receiving, as long as those in charge don’t lose sight of the need to keep standards high.
Agreeing that the state budget will be topic No. 1 in Olympia when the Legislature convenes in January, Weigelt believes a large chunk of money could be unearthed by getting rid of loopholes helping those who need assistance the least.
“Big corporatons are getting huge breaks they don’t need,” he said, chiding the current members for taking far too long to look at a flawed system.
Also, Weigelt believes the state should go after tax dollars not being paid in an “underground economy.” There are businesses that operate completely off the state’s radar, he said, and make money without contributing anything in the way of taxes.
“The estimates are huge…in the billions,” he said.
As a final incentive, Weigelt believes the 31st District would benefit from having another member in the majority party. Democrats will continue to rule both the House of Representatives and the Senate, he said, and that makes it easier to get legislation passed.
Reach Kevin Hanson at email@example.com or 360-802-8205.