Nancy McLaughlin, Q&A on 15 topics
NANCY MCLAUGHLIN, Republican
1. Why do you feel that you are the best candidate?
As your city councilwoman, I have been in touch with moms and dads, singles, retirees, employers and employees of Spokane. I understand your frustration with reduced job opportunities, high taxes and fees and extensive regulations. That’s why I voted against the $20 car tab fee and excessive water rates. I can be a greater part of the solution as your senator. With fair, common sense leadership I can help ensure a climate for job creation, education reforms to include more local control and accountability, and sustainable budgets that won’t leave an oppressive debt burden on our children and grandchildren.
2. What is the first bill you hope to sponsor or co-sponsor next session?
We need to give small businesses an opportunity to grow and create new jobs, thereby expanding the tax base to help pay for our children’s education and take care of our most vulnerable citizens. I will work to help pass a jobs package called “Let’s Get Washington Working Again.” This jobs bill simplifies and reduces the number of tax rates for small businesses; requires state agencies to make a decision on permits within 90 days or it’s granted; recognizes hydropower as renewable energy, helping to provide for lower electricity rates; and enacts other regulatory reforms.
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?
Yes, I agree with the court, but no tax increases are necessary to get more education dollars into the classroom. The highest priority for our state budget, before any other state program, should be K-12 education, but only about 60 cents of every dollar allocated to education reaches the classroom, according to the state auditor’s office. Flexibility in how dollars are spent, more local control and accountability, preserving the Levy Equalization Assistance dollars, and curtailing unfunded mandates passed down to local school districts are key to ensure every child has an equal opportunity to a quality education.
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?
Yes and Yes. In the years when the two-thirds requirement was in effect, tax hikes were a last resort resulting in more reform and fewer taxes. In 2010 the Democrat-led Legislature overruled the voters again by suspending the two-thirds requirement, resulting in almost $800 million more in taxes with few, if any, needed reforms. Later that year, 64 percent of citizens in the 3rd District voted in favor of I-1053, reinstating the two-thirds requirement. The Legislature has failed so miserably in multiple budget crises that a state Constitutional amendment would assure less talk and more action concerning necessary reforms.
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?
The Affordable Care Act will require millions of matching state dollars. Increases to Basic Health are unaffordable now because of our obligations to Medicaid and public employees’ health insurance. We can maintain funding through reforms: restrict coverage to state residents only, redirect resources by realigning pubic employee contributions to match the private sector, shift to consumer-directed insurance plans by funding Health Savings Accounts, use competitive plans for catastrophic insurance and reduce mandates. In Indiana, these reforms save the state $17 million to $23 million each year, while employees save $7 million to $8 million by making wiser health care decisions.
6. Do you support same-sex marriage?
I support the right of people to agree to disagree on issues. The lifestyle choices that people make are up to them and I respect those choices. However, I am not in favor of changing the definition of marriage to anything other than a union between one man and one woman.
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?
Refinements to the existing design have already resulted in approximately $300 million in savings and can be staged to provide an interim drivable section with the ability for future expansion. Additional state and federal funding must be pursued first before asking citizens for more, especially with Washington’s already high gas taxes and prices. Furthermore, this project is ranked 19th of 80 on the Congressional High Priority Corridor List for the National Highway system and will result in gas savings, improved air quality, improved safety and provide economic growth opportunities for commercial and industrial development, ultimately resulting in needed jobs.
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 the legalization of marijuana for adults, including recreational purposes. Washington is one of 17 states where medical marijuana is legal, yet is illegal under federal law. I support asking the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to reclassify medical marijuana as a Schedule 2 drug, which would allow its use for treatment - prescribed by doctors and filled by pharmacists. Until this happens, the arrest and prosecution of the possession of marijuana should be given a low priority when we have such limited law enforcement resources.
9. Do you support the state’s current laws relating to collective bargaining among government workers? If not, how should those laws change?
Local and state officials must negotiate with union representatives in good faith to assure fair wages and working conditions. However, government unions now have too much power. Employees usually must join. Then government unions use that money to support issues and influence elections that are not necessarily in the best interests of the employees or the public. They have too much power to require that taxpayers’ money be used to award bigger and better benefits than their private counterparts. Other priorities of our state are suffering because we can no longer afford the overly generous benefits unions have bargained.
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?
The arts are critical to a vibrant and engaging community which attracts new businesses, an educated workforce and a creative, curious younger generation among other reasons. However, in hard economic times, state and local governments have to reduce support in favor of higher priorities of service such as public safety. I would support grants for creative fundraising, scrutinize administrative policies, etc. I would hope the budget could at least maintain current 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?
Voters rejected the idea of a state income tax HEAVILY in 2010 (64.15 percent said “no” to I-1098). The promise of reducing other taxes in favor of an income tax does not give citizens assurance because once enacted, taxes tend to be raised, not reduced. (The state gas tax began at 1 cent per gallon and today it’s 37.5 cents per gallon; the first state sales tax was 2 percent and today it’s 6.5 percent.) We need to reduce taxes on small business and continue to reform Worker’s Compensation, Unemployment Insurance, etc. in order to get people back to work.
12. Do you support the state law that allows local governments to install red light enforcement cameras?
Yes, as long as it improves safety and reduces traffic violations. Red-light running is a serious intersection safety issue across the nation. People are more likely to be injured due to a red-light running related crash than any other type of crash. Cameras can significantly reduce intersection crashes and red light violations. It even changes driver behavior by reducing violations at intersections without cameras. Pictures are only taken of a vehicle’s license plate and not the driver so is very nonintrusive.
13. Should the state allow the creation of charter schools?
I support the creation of public charter schools, STEM schools and other innovative organizational school designs. Forty-one states allow their students to attend charter public school, and they are popular with parents. These public charter schools should be modeled after charter schools in other states that have shown success in student achievement. Charter schools should be granted a high degree of financial and organizational autonomy so that they have the freedom to customize staff, curriculum, and educational services to best meet their students’ needs. Charter schools should be held accountable for improving student performance.
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 would not support allowing local governments to form a district to add “fees” to anything without a public vote. People are not fooled. They know this is actually an unapproved tax. Especially because of our difficult economy, I voted against the $20 license tab “fee” when it was passed by others on the City Council, but I would have supported it with 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?
Yes, I would support limiting tuition increases and reducing the cost of higher education by scrutinizing the programs we offer. Focus state dollars on marketable programs that train a workforce for the demand; don’t demonize the trades and apprentice programs; provide a type of “truth in advertising” by informing our secondary students what kind of careers are going to be in demand, allowing them to make informed choices. Limit subsidized education for “career students” who are still taking up limited slots after 5 years; retain slots for in-state students and provide adequate tax savings accounts for higher education.