MARCUS RICCELLI, Democrat
1. Why do you feel that you are the best candidate?
I was raised on Spokane’s north side in a middle class home, graduating from Mead High School and Gonzaga—I truly understand the challenges, priorities, and passions of Spokane families. My work with Senator Brown and U.S. Senator Cantwell prepared me to be a strong voice for local businesses, schools and quality of life. I’ve worked alongside and developed strong relationships with regional leaders while advocating for expanding our aerospace industry, investing in the Riverpoint Campus, and developing a 4 year medical school. I have experience navigating Olympia protecting uniquely Spokane programs like Crosswalk, the Guild School and Sally’s House.
2. What is the first bill you hope to sponsor or co-sponsor next session?
My experience has allowed me to be uniquely positioned to deliver on the medical school. We have set the table with the funding of the Biomedical and Health Sciences Building. We have the opportunity to make our community not only a center of healthcare excellence, but also bring economic development around clinical research. My first push would be for a bill or provision in the operating budget to fund additional graduate medical education slots. Spokane’s future is linked to growing the health care sector and this would help bring the medical school and 13,000 new jobs upon completion.
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?
As the son of an elementary teacher, husband of a school counselor, and newer parent, I know we have a responsibility to fully fund K-12 education and I agree with the ruling. In order to enhance education and produce better results for students, we must invest more revenue into our public education system. With a required two-thirds majority to put revenue options on the table, we have to find new and innovative ways to find the revenue necessary to support our public education system. Aggressively pursuing the closure of some of our more egregious tax loopholes is one way.
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 not support the two-thirds requirement. I do not think that the constitution should be amended to require two-thirds a vote on revenue. I-1053 is unconstitutional in my opinion and I am hopeful the state high court will uphold the recent ruling.
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?
I believe these programs should be increased. We can afford an increase by closing tax loopholes.
6. Do you support same-sex marriage?
Like many young people from Spokane, I left for a bit after graduating college. I returned around two years later for a job and to court my future wife, and eventually we started a family. I would never think to deny that same joy to any committed couple. For me, I just don’t believe government should play a role in such a deeply personal decision, but I do support the exemption in the current law that allows churches to exercise their conscience in such matters.
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 strongly support the completion of the North Spokane Corridor (NSC). It will reduce travel time, help citizens save on gas, improve our air quality and safety, help move freight, create construction jobs and generate economic development. It is critical that the voices of the impacted neighborhoods are included at every step of the project and not as an afterthought. I would support a transportation revenue package to help address our maintenance backlog and help move the NSC to the river and closer to completion. I will only support a transportation revenue package if it includes funding for the NSC.
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 start, I think we should decriminalize the use of marijuana. We face an overcrowded prison population and skyrocketing costs of incarceration. I support the legalization of marijuana for medical use. I think as a start the Drug Enforcement Administration should legalize marijuana for medical purposes and reclassify marijuana so it can be prescribed by doctors and administered by pharmacists. People suffering from serious medical conditions that can benefit from the medical use of cannabis should be able to obtain their medications in a way that can be verified as safe and consistent by a healthcare professional.
9. Do you support the state’s current laws relating to collective bargaining among government workers? If not, how should those laws change?
Yes. I believe workers should have the right to collectively bargain.
10. State funding for the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture has been significantly cut in the last few years. Should the state’s current financial support to the museum be increased, maintained or decreased?
I believe the state has a role in supporting the arts. I will continue to support the MAC, and was proud to help in my capacity as Senator Brown’s Senior Policy Advisor to ensure the operating budget had funding to keep the MAC open for the current biennium after the Governor proposed elimination. The reality is, however, that we are in the middle of the recession with multiple competing funding priorities and we in the community need to find sustainable sources of revenue for the MAC outside of the state budget. This includes finding a significant increase in private funding.
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?
Immediately, I support identifying and closing all egregious loopholes contained within our tax code. Before taxing others, I first want to ensure that everyone pays their fair share. We need the resources to invest in long-term job growth without placing the burden of further taxes on those with middle and lower incomes. We cannot balance our budget on the backs of the poor and middle class, nor on small businesses. I would not take an income tax off the table. However, it would need to be coupled with the simultaneous elimination or reduction of the business and occupation tax.
12. Do you support the state law that allows local governments to install red light enforcement cameras?
Yes, local governments desperately need the revenue and without it we could leave citizens and communities in unhealthy and even dangerous situations with further cuts to public safety and other essential services. Oversight of enforcement is important and the burden of proof should be high.
13. Should the state allow the creation of charter schools?
No. I believe there are ways to enhance and spark innovation and accountability in our current public schools to better serve all students.
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?
Given the urgent need identified by businesses and neighborhood leaders to improve safety, mobility and commerce on our local roads, I do think we need to provide reasonable flexibility until state and local revenues are stabilized and can meet many of these urgent needs. I would like to see these fee increases passed with sunsets or reviews, and definitely include independent citizen oversight to maximize accountability. I would need to see a significant demonstrated benefit from the current $20 and that it was working before I supported additional funding without voter approval.
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?
Higher education has been cut too much during the recession, and I won’t support further cuts. The legislature should strongly support community colleges, career and technical education, expanded higher education opportunities and fight against rising tuition and increasing rates on student loan debt. Students shouldn’t be priced out of their education, and Washington must have a highly skilled, trained and educated workforce to compete in a global economy. Capping tuition is one tool, so long as we don’t sacrifice access or quality – the Legislature should focus on increasing financial aid support from the state to keep pace with rising costs.