Larry Keller, Q&A on 15 topics
LARRY KELLER, Republican
1. Why do you feel that you are the best candidate?
I am the only candidate that has been a CEO of mid to large size organizations. I have shown I can bring diverse groups with diverse opinions together to “get things done.” I have demonstrated that I know how to be a good fiscal steward, most recently as the Cheney School superintendent, with a $40 million budget and with $79 million of construction projects. I am also the only candidate who has a background in education and can apply that background on how best to satisfy the January state Supreme Court decision on the adequate funding of K-12 education.
2. What is the first bill you hope to sponsor or co-sponsor next session?
I would like to be part of a collaborative team of both Republicans and Democrats that crafts a bill to create a stable funding source for K-12 education. The “prototypical bill passed two years ago created a potential viable definition and structure for K-12 education. The piece left to be done is defining how we fund that model.
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?
I do agree that the state is not adequately funding basic education. No, I do not agree with the governor. First, we need to need to take a much harder look at what the role of state government is, as defined by our state constitution, and adjust our state programs and the state agencies that oversee them accordingly. Second, we need to privatize or contract out those services that already exist within the private sector. Third, we need to work harder on the revenue side of the ledger to create revenue through jobs not additional taxes.
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 do support the two-thirds requirement and yes, the state Constitution should be amended. We need to elect legislators who will have the fiscal discipline to not make this an issue. Tax increases should be the last resort after we look for efficiencies within our current state government.
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?
These are tough times which require tough decisions. We need to continue to “scrub” our social services support to make sure that dollars are supporting those truly in need. I do not support additional taxes to restore the cuts identified in the question.
6. Do you support same-sex marriage?
I do not support same-sex marriage and do not believe the state should be dictating an acceptance of this through policy. Marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman and is based on religious beliefs. I would be willing to consider the access of same-sex couples to health care and other state programs based on a definition of a long term civil relationship.
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 do support the completion of construction of the North-South freeway. In terms of the number of lanes, the factors that I would consider include, does the configuration provide the level of safety necessary and have we taken into account the potential for growth over a 25-30 year period. If 20 lanes meet those standards then I support 20 lanes. I would not support asking for extra gas tax money as I believe that the money should come through reprioritization of dollars already in the state’s transportation funding.
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?
I do not support marijuana for adults for recreational purposes. I would support for medical use, but only when prescribed by a doctor. We need to work with the federal government to modify the existing laws on the use of marijuana.
9. Do you support the state’s current laws relating to collective bargaining among government workers? If not, how should those laws change?
I do not support the current laws relating of collective bargaining. Specifically we need to change the statutes associated with the termination of an unsatisfactory employee. The current process takes 1-2 years due to the statutory hearing provisions and wastes taxpayer money.
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?
This is another of those tough decisions. This is not about the state’s desire to supports the arts, it is about being fiscally prudent, living within our means and honoring our constitutionally defined financial obligations. In these tough economic times we will need to rely on corporate partners and grants to cover the shortfall.
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?
I do not support a state income tax. This is a slippery slope, where once it is in place two things happen, 1.) We will have even less visibility then we do now on where our tax dollars go and 2.)We will have no guarantee on which taxes will go away. I do strongly believe we need to reduce the tax burden on our businesses to make them more competitive. We need to grow our way out of the recession to balance the books.
12. Do you support the state law that allows local governments to install red light enforcement cameras?
Yes I do, as long as strong guidelines are in place. I recognize with cuts in law enforcement this may provide an avenue to provide more law enforcement in other areas. The intent should be to increase safety and not build a bank account for other community priorities.
13. Should the state allow the creation of charter schools?
The state should rely on the “will of the people” to decide this, which they have several times already. Charter schools are not a panacea, but may be a choice as are other nontraditional programs already in existence. Parents in this state, which is not the case in many states, already have the option to choose an educational setting for their child or children.
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?
I do support the law that allows local governments to form districts, but do not support an increase to that amount without asking the voters.
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?
I do believe that the state needs to be involved in the oversight of tuition increases at state-supported universities, and I would support capping tuition increases.