Jon Snyder, Q&A on 15 topics
JON SNYDER, Democrat
1. Why do you feel that you are the best candidate?
I have lived, worked in the 3rd for most of my life and my wife and I are raising our two children here—I know the District. My experience as a local small business owner, community volunteer and now as a Spokane City Council Member give me a unique perspective. I am known as an honest, energetic, and hardworking leader. I know that public servants need to not only communicate, but we also need to know when to listen. I’m not afraid of taking tough stances on hard issues and I have a record of getting things done for Spokane.
2. What is the first bill you hope to sponsor or co-sponsor next session?
Spokane needs jobs. The first thing I want to work on is a transportation revenue package. Whenever the state invests money to build it should have a triple benefit: 1) creating construction jobs, 2) improving access to employment, and 3) spurring the private sector to invest and create more jobs. If a project isn’t doing all of the above it’s not worth our time. We have great road, public transit, and aerospace projects in the Spokane area that can do all three. Obviously one legislator can’t do this alone but the state has been laying the groundwork for years.
3. Do you agree with the state Supreme Court ruling from January that said that the state is not adequately funding basic education? Do you agree with Gov. Chris Gregoire’s assessment that tax increases are needed to meet the requirements of the ruling?
We must fully fund our state education at the levels our state constitution requires in order to provide the opportunities our children deserve. If education at all levels is a top priority we need to have the courage to fund it. We must always look for cost saving and efficiencies but at some point we need to get serious about schooling the workforce of the next generation, and that will require new revenue so that all children in the state of Washington have access to great learning opportunities and have a chance to compete in the global economy.
4. Do you support the voter-approved rule that stipulates that the Legislature can only approve a tax increase when each chamber supports the increase with two-thirds majorities? Should the state Constitution be amended to require two-thirds votes to approve tax increases?
I understand and am sensitive to the desire of the citizens to limit taxes, but I do believe this measure is contrary to the spirit of our state constitution. As a government, we must ensure our citizens basic needs are met. By requiring a 2/3 majority to raise revenue means that a relatively small minority can easily block proposals even though the majority of voters approve. At the same time, I believe we must be very thoughtful about every tax measure that comes before us and I intend to do that as State Representative.
5. The Legislature decided in 2011 to reduce the eligibility for the state’s Basic Health program and thousands of people were kicked off the plan. Benefits of the program also were reduced, including the elimination of adult dental coverage. Should the level of services of the program be cut, maintained or increased? If you support increased services, would you be willing to raise taxes to pay for the improvements?
Services should be maintained or increased from current levels. If we don’t pay for increased coverage now we all just end up paying more later with higher emergency services costs—that’s something I’ve seen time and again at the City. Basic Health helps level the playing field. When kids and adults don’t have to worry about crucial health issues they are ready to learn, or ready to be a part of our workforce. This is an important element of our social safety net. We need to close tax loopholes to create funding.
6. Do you support same-sex marriage?
We must promote equality for all people and that is why I am in favor of Referendum 74. Marriage is love, commitment, and responsibility and I believe that all couples in our state deserve the same recognition under the law.
7. Current plans for completing the North Spokane freeway call for its interchange with Interstate 90 to expand I-90 to about 20 lanes wide, including onramps and service roads, in a portion of the East Central Neighborhood. Do you support this configuration? Would you support asking voters for a state gas tax increase if it included money to help complete the North Spokane freeway?
I support the North South Corridor as part of a balanced transportation plan for Spokane County that includes good roads, a good bus system, and good options for biking and walking. I am concerned about the 20 lanes design removing crucial on and off-ramps in the East Central neighborhood and cutting off access to local businesses that depend on using I-90. I’m not convinced a gas tax is the solution because this revenue stream is rapidly diminishing.
8. Do you support the legalization of marijuana for adults, including for recreational purposes? If not, do you support the legalization of marijuana for medical use? How would you address the conflict that currently exists between state law allowing marijuana for medical use and federal law banning it?
As a Spokane City Council Member, I co-sponsored and wrote a City Council resolution requesting that the federal government reclassify medical marijuana from a schedule one drug to a lower classification. I think we need to pressure the federal government for clarity on this issue so that our state and local governments have more power to make and enforce local laws. I do not support initiative 502.
9. Do you support the state’s current laws relating to collective bargaining among government workers? If not, how should those laws change?
I support collective bargaining for all workers in our state so that they may organize should they choose to. I would like to see an exception to allow for a Police Ombudsman or Citizens’ oversight committee to have full investigatory power without being considered a change in working conditions. This is an example of a policy I started working on in Spokane that ends in Olympia.
10. State funding for the Northwest Museum of Arts and Cultures has been significantly cut in the last few years. Should the state’s current financial support to the museum be increased, maintained or decreased?
We should maintain this important community benefit. My wife has worked as an arts educator at the museum for the past 10 years, and I’ve seen first hand the positive impact the museum has in our community. The last four years she has lead a program called Visual Thinking Strategies in partnership with local grade schools. The program develops critical thinking skills in kids using art as a jumping off point. It’s been a tremendous success for both the schools and the museum and is an example of how the MAC has been working to go beyond traditional funding sources.
11. Would you support the creation of an income tax to reduce or eliminate the business and occupation tax or cut other kinds of state taxes?
Our current tax system puts too much burden on working families and local small businesses, especially new businesses. We must look at ways to promote sensible tax reform, looking first at removing tax loopholes and then consider ways to diversify our tax system so that our businesses don’t have the burden of high B & O taxes and revenue can be generated in other ways. I do not support a state income tax at this time.
12. Do you support the state law that allows local governments to install red light enforcement cameras?
I do support traffic calming measures. While other cities have had problems with Photo Red, Spokane is a success story. We haven’t put the money generated from Photo Red in the general fund but have instead kept our promise to the citizens and let the neighborhoods choose the projects instead of engineers at City Hall. Traffic calming projects started rolling out last year with more to come this summer. I congratulate all the citizens who have worked on traffic calming to help make the city safer. It shows how Spokane can lead by example where other cities have stumbled.
13. Should the state allow the creation of charter schools?
I understand why some communities are interested in charter schools but Spokane area school districts have a long history of offering a variety of options within the public school system including A.P.P.L.E., Montesori, Havermale, The Skills Center, Contract Based Education to name a few. I have concerns that creating charter schools would erode those important options and weaken public education across the board. I don’t see an outcry for charters schools on Spokane, and certainly not ones that are privately operated.
14. Do you support the state law that allows local governments to form districts that can add a fee of up to $20 to vehicle license charges without a public vote to pay for improvements to local streets? If so, would you support increasing the amount that could be charged without asking voters?
Yes. We actually save citizens money by allowing them to invest in streets instead of auto repair. I voted to create a tab-funded street maintenance program in Spokane because street concerns are always near the top of the list of things I hear about from citizens. When we have a problem such as street condition we need to take action and be accountable. That was accomplished by creating a Citizens Transportation Advisory Board. I don’t support raising the fee without a public vote. Spokane County must join the City in this effort and form a regional solution on street repair.
15. College tuition at state-supported institutions has soared in recent years. The Washington State University Board of Regents recently set the typical undergraduate tuition for 2012-2013 at $11,305. That’s up from $5,812 only five years ago. What should the Legislature do, if anything, to deal with the sharp increases in collection tuition? Would you support capping tuition increases at state universities?
It’s critical that we curb the tuition increases happening at universities across that state. Just capping tuition rates isn’t a workable solution. Schools like Eastern Washington University have lower income students and they can’t raise money from tuition increases the way that the University of Washington can. We need to continue to look hard for cost savings and efficiencies, but I can’t see a scenario where we won’t need to raise some revenue, including closing tax loopholes. I will be committed to funding quality higher education in our state so that we can prepare our children for the future workforce.