Q&A with central Spokane House candidates Benn, Riccelli and McGlenn
All three candidates for 3rd Legislative District state representative, position 1, were asked the same questions on key issues. Here are their answers.
Candidates are listed in the order they will appear on the ballot.
What is your top priority and the main reason why you are running?
Tim Benn: My top priority is to represent and advocate for the rights of the citizens of the 3rd District regardless of party positions. I am concerned with maintaining small businesses for a vibrant economy. I am running for office because I believe I can bring fresh ideas that represent the average citizen to Olympia. As a husband, a father and small business owner, I am concerned about families, education and our local small businesses. My goal is to make Washington state family and business friendly.
Marcus Riccelli: In Spokane, people can project a person’s life expectancy, educational attainment and lifetime earnings just by the ZIP code they were born in. That’s not the America I believe in – I want my children to have even greater opportunities than I’ve had. I’ve delivered a fair share for Spokane priorities: $71 million for the North Spokane Corridor; $11.8 million to expand facilities at the NEWTECH Skill Center; $3.38 million for the MAC; and expansion of medical education. We must make even greater investments in schools, grow family-wage jobs, and protect our quality of life for a great future for Spokane.
Randy McGlenn II: My top priority is the economy. I lost my job to downsizing. It was painful to lay off my employees knowing I was next to leave, while staying positive and helping the company outsource its IT operation. I want to make Washington a great place to do business, by overhauling our tax system that is stacked against us and help find ways for businesses to grow. A better tax structure will allow more jobs to be created with better pay that will give people stability so that what happened to me and countless others does not have to happen again.
The McCleary vs. State ruling calls for legislators to move toward fully funding basic education by 2018. How would you suggest legislators find money to do so?
Benn: Compulsory education is from age 8 through grade 12. My research of education systems in other states and countries shows that we can do a better job with the funding that’s already available. The funding is there but it’s not making it to the classrooms. Far too many dollars are spent on things that don’t directly educate our children. Instead, it’s widely distributed to countless public-private partnerships, contracted entities and other government agencies. These funds do not make it to the classroom for student use. Education funding is so complicated even accountants can’t tell you where the money is going.
Riccelli: To enhance education and produce better results for students, we must invest more. We need new and innovative ways to close the opportunity gap. But this can’t come at the cost of other vital programs that keep our community strong and protect our most vulnerable. Hungry, sick and homeless kids cannot thrive. We need to aggressively pursue the closure of egregious tax loopholes to promote small class sizes and exceptional K-12 outcomes. We also need to create a level playing field for all Washington kids, and I will continue to fight for funding high-quality, early-learning programs.
McGlenn: I would make sure that no existing revenue sources intended for education are being diverted to the general fund or other areas. Secondly, I would make sure that education dollars are being spent effectively and not being wasted on things that do not contribute to the education of our children. I would eliminate waste in the state budget by eliminating duplicate or unused services, and use the money saved towards education.
Would you support a gas tax to help pay for the completion of the North Spokane Corridor and other infrastructure repairs?
Benn: The north-south freeway has been a political football for 50 years. Because Western Washington politics dictate spending priorities, funds for the freeway completion have been allocated several times yet every time the funds have been used elsewhere. I will oppose higher gas taxes for families in one of the highest gas-taxed states in the country. For years, Spokane residents have invested in Western Washington projects. It’s time Spokane gets its fair share of highway dollars without additional taxes. Completion of the freeway is important because it will bring jobs in product distribution and manufacturing.
Riccelli: I strongly support a transportation package to help address our maintenance backlog and connect the North Spokane Corridor to I-90. The NSC will reduce travel time, help citizens save on gas, improve air quality and safety, create construction jobs and generate economic development. It is critical that impacted neighborhoods and businesses are included at every step of the new interim design, especially when considering on and off-ramps. I am committed to getting our fair share of a balanced transportation revenue package that includes completing the NSC to I-90, and kick-starting the Central City Link. Let’s finish what we started.
McGlenn: I would not support any new taxes, period. The state has passed taxes that were supposedly going to fund the north-south freeway repeatedly, but it’s not done yet. We need to stop diverting funds away from this and other infrastructure projects to the general fund. We need to make sure that contracted work is delivered on time and that bidding is competitive. We need to hold people accountable on delivering their projects in a timely fashion.
Gun control is a hot discussion topic across the nation. Are things fine the way they are or would you like to make changes?
Benn: In recent gun incidents, the main issue was mental health. Improving health insurance to cover access to mental health care and tracking of mentally ill patients will regulate the most dangerous population. In several incidents, the guns were licensed and the background checks were completed. Strengthening families who can report and ask for help has reduced violence more than regulations.
Riccelli: When approaching gun laws I have two priorities: protecting the 2nd Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners and preventing criminals and domestic abusers from easy access to guns. This is why I support expanding background checks to prevent criminals and the dangerously mentally ill from buying guns online or in private sales. However, I oppose creating a state registry or other licensing beyond what law enforcement officials already keep on sales from federally recognized dealers.
McGlenn: Gun control is a mess. Gun-related crimes are on the increase for two significant reasons: the lack of attention towards mental illness, and the disarmament zones (like gun-free school zones) we have created have become crime havens for people who do not respect the law. You do not hear about shootings happening at a police precinct, why? If people were unrestricted in where they may carry firearms, we would have fewer tragedies like those we have seen in recent times. Statistics have proven that where there are fewer restrictions on firearms there is less crime.
What is your view of the legalization of marijuana and it becoming available in local stores?
Benn: I am concerned about underage usage now that retailers will be advertising the product. My experience in Olympia has shown me that the legalization of marijuana made every governmental agency appear to have the munchies for new programs paid for by marijuana taxes. I saw a plethora of bills grabbing for these tax dollars. However, the cost of the bureaucracy being constructed to control the sale of marijuana means there will be no tax money left. Actually, I believe there will be a deficit. If it wasn’t controlled when illegal, how can we control it now that it’s legal?
Riccelli: As Vice Chair of the House Health Care Committee and an advisory board member for Daybreak Youth Services, which helps teens fighting addiction, I am deeply concerned about underage substance abuse. Washington voted to legalize marijuana to dissolve the unregulated market and replace it with a safe and transparent marketplace that can restrict underage sales. The revenue generated will be used for regulation, enforcement, and substance abuse education—especially for youth. “Business as usual” wasn’t keeping our kids safe. As legalization continues to unfold, I will work hard to ensure the health and safety of our community come first.
McGlenn: Criminalizing people for the use of recreational drugs like marijuana has only done one thing: needlessly removed innocent people from being contributors to society. These people work, pay taxes and were harming no one else. A major portion of that population are from drug-related, victimless crimes. The financial burden on us to keep people behind bars is staggering. Having marijuana available to purchase publicly has the same risks involved that alcohol and tobacco cigarettes pose. It’s very important to ensure that minors don’t have access to these substances publicly, but we have to understand we can never completely prevent it.