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Driscoll, Ahern outline differences

Thu., Oct. 14, 2010, midnight

Democrat balances budget with cuts, Republican by privatizing

State Rep. John Driscoll and former state Rep. John Ahern are overshadowed in their election rematch by the intense battle for state Senate in the same district.

Debates between Chris Marr and Michael Baumgartner, who are running for Senate in the 6th District, have been heated.

But when Driscoll and Ahern squared off Wednesday in front of the Spokane Building Owners and Managers Association, the two offered at least a little praise of each other’s record.

Driscoll, a Democrat, said Ahern had done an “incredible job” when he was in the Legislature. Ahern, a Republican, said Driscoll had “done a pretty good job when it comes to health care,” though he added: “there’s a lot more in life than health care.”

Pleasantries aside, the two offered criticism and plenty of distinctions.

After Ahern noted that two of his bills became law, including one to make some drunken driving offense felonies, Driscoll said he’s already pushed more bills through in his first term.

“In those eight years he passed two bills,” said Driscoll, who says he was the main sponsor on 10 bills that became law. “I’ve been in office two years. In those two years I’ve passed some significant legislation related to things that are important here in Spokane.”

Among those, Driscoll said, was a bill to prohibit insurance companies from denying coverage for people needing life-saving organ transplants.

After Driscoll repeated his opposition to new taxes, Ahern noted that Democrats didn’t need Driscoll’s vote to raise taxes.

“I guarantee you, if it were down to the wire and (Democrats) only had a one or two majority in the house, he would be voting for taxes,” Ahern said.

Driscoll said he would balance the budget by cutting and consolidating programs.

“I’m real firm on ‘no new taxes,’ ” Driscoll said. “I think we can ultimately get through and produce a balanced budget next time, and I will work hard to make sure taxes are not part of the package.”

Ahern, who also opposes new taxes, said he would balance the budget by turning over some government work, such as printing, liquor sales and ferry service, to businesses.

“There are three ways we can do it: Privatize, privatize, and the third way, guess what, privatize,” Ahern said.

Ahern said he expects big savings by getting the state out of the liquor business and that it’s time to follow the lead of British Columbia, which privatized much of its ferry system.

After the debate, Driscoll said he’s open to privatizing but opposes proposed liquor privatization plans because of public safety concerns. He said privatizing the ferry system likely would result in selling off a few profitable routes, leaving the state in a hole.

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