State Rep. Joel Kretz isn’t a Republican you would expect to see challenged for his seat by another Republican.
He’s ranked highly by state business groups that generally lean Republican and he’s the party’s deputy minority leader in the House.
But the rancher from Wauconda this year found himself as the only candidate in the 7th Legislative District facing competition, and it didn’t come from a different party.
Robert Wilson is a retired U.S. Border Patrol agent making his first run for office.
He said he decided to run because he doesn’t believe Kretz has much of a profile in the district, which starting next year will represent all or part of five counties in northeastern Washington. Wilson largely is concerned about high taxes.
“I had never heard of Joel Kretz,” Wilson said. “I was surprised that somebody wasn’t throwing a fit. I don’t see a lot of changes going on.”
But Kretz said if Wilson hadn’t heard of him, he clearly isn’t paying attention, and also questions Wilson’s resume, which he says shows a lack of engagement in the community.
Kretz said he has pushed for many of the same positions Wilson advocates, such as a requirement for tax increases to receive two-thirds support to win approval. He said his most important work this last term was working in the successful fight to maintain school levy equalization dollars. Levy equalization is aimed at helping school districts that collect low amounts of property taxes compared with richer districts.
“I just feel that kids in Wauconda or Metaline Falls deserve to get the same education as anywhere else,” Kretz said.
Wilson has taken a strong stance against the gas tax, and said he will push to stop new transportation projects, including the completion of the North Spokane Corridor, in hopes of lowering the tax.
Kretz said he supports the completion of the freeway from Francis Avenue to Interstate 90 but believes there is enough waste in transportation spending that a new tax isn’t necessary.
“I’m about ready to head to Spokane in a few minutes, and I’m just dreading getting on Division,” he said Wednesday.
While Wilson has conservative stances on fiscal issues, he’s less conservative than Kretz on some social ones.
Kretz voted against same-sex marriage. Wilson said he likely would have voted in favor, though he has concerns that taking the step could eventually lead to legalized polygamy.
Wilson said women should have a right to an abortion during the first trimester. Kretz opposes abortion rights, though he makes an exception for women who have been raped.
Kretz has recently made headlines for working with an environmental group with which he often has disagreed on a bill allowing nuisance beavers to be relocated to areas where they could help raise water tables.
The first trial relocation occurred this summer on his land.
Wilson is at a disadvantage heading into the general election. Although the August primary vote was nearly tied in Spokane County (4,617 for Kretz; 4,616 for Wilson), Kretz won 62 percent of the entire district.
Wilson also is not raising money for his race and has promised not to spend more than $5,000 on his campaign.
Kretz has raised more than $115,000.
The following are excerpts from a 15-topic Spokesman-Review questionnaire. Each candidate was allowed up to 100 words to address each topic. Kretz did not return the questionnaire. Wilson’s full questionnaire can be found attached to the candidate’s profile at spokesman.com/elections.
Q.What is the first bill you hope to sponsor or co-sponsor next session?
Wilson: I have several that I am interested in, yet the first and most important item I will do immediately is fight to freeze any new transportation construction by the state and in turn cut back on the gas tax. We have the highest fuel excise tax in the nation and truly, fuel costs are crippling the majority of our citizens. I believe that every program in the state should have no increases in expenditures or, when possible, cuts to their budgets for at least the next two to four years.
Q.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?
Wilson: I won’t agree to new taxes as there are always other paths to achieve the same result. I agree with the Legislature’s decision to reduce eligibility. I believe the state’s basic health program should be an almost emergency program designed to help those who have fallen on dire straits. One of my objectives will be to remove any residents who are not here lawfully from this program or other such programs. Also, I strongly believe self-inflicted health problems such as those encountered by continued users of methamphetamines, heroin and the like should not be covered by our taxpayers’ pocketbooks.
Q.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?
Wilson: No. We are in a time of crisis in this state with our budget so this would be an appropriate time to shelve this plan until our financial situations improve. I understand that money has already been allocated for it but, in this crisis, stop the work and reallocate the money back to the consumers in the way of a REDUCED gas tax!
Q.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?
Wilson: NO! One of Washington state’s attractive points is that we don’t have an income tax. I believe that passing one would be detrimental to the state’s future. It will almost assuredly lead to more taxing and would solve no problems.
Q.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 tuition? Would you support capping tuition increases at state universities?
Wilson: First of all, why is tuition rising at such a tremendous rate? That would have to be investigated. I believe that these higher costs – doubling per your numbers in five years – are pushing middle and lower middle class families away from college. Attending college needs to be economically viable for the residents of Washington but at this rate it is becoming much more of a luxury than it was only a few years ago. The tuition needs to be capped. Other items can be cut from their budget to allow the cost per student to level off rather than growing exponentially.