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Q&A: Spokane Valley state House candidates Christian, Wilhite, McCaslin

4th District House questions

All three candidates for 4th Legislative District 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.

Washington needs to increase education funding by an estimated $1 billion to fulfill the requirements of a State Supreme Court ruling. How would you suggest coming up with that funding?

Christian: I support fully funding basic education. Our founding fathers knew that an educated populace is a free populace. I also believe in the separation of government powers that is part of our state constitution. Many of us in the Legislature feel the Supreme Court has no business directing the House or Senate how much to spend in any area. Currently, the forecast shows nearly $2.8 billion more in the general fund and I believe if we prioritize spending we should be able to cover the McCleary mandate without raising taxes or fees.

Wilhite: It has been estimated that additional revenue for the upcoming biennium is calculated to be $2.8 billion. If this is indeed the case, then there is sufficient funding to meet the Supreme Court’s demand for increased spending for the K-12 system without raising any fees or taxes.

McCaslin: First, we need to prepare Washington students to compete for good, high-paying jobs. Second, know that the Majority Coalition Caucus in the Senate created a budget for 2013-2015 that invested an additional $1.7 billion into K-12 education over the 2011-2013 budget, meeting the state’s four-year balanced budget requirement, without raising taxes. It can be done! We will fund education by living within taxpayer means; after all, it’s their money. To fund education, we need a revenue stream that is predictable, successful businesses in our state and a return of our public lands to state control.

Do you believe the state should continue its moratorium on executions?

Christian: I believe Gov. Inslee failed to fully consider the victims and families when he, with the swipe of a pen, overrode the entire justice system and made his one-man moratorium decision. These criminals are the worst of the worst who have had their day in court, were found guilty by a jury and in most cases several appeals. If Gov. Inslee believes Washington no longer supports capital punishment, bring it to a vote of the people of Washington.

Wilhite: The governor has stated that he does not question the guilt of the nine men on death row, so then the judgment of the court needs to be carried out. However, Gov. Inslee says that problems exist in our capital punishment system. If that is the case then we need to review the judicial system and determine how to make sure that equal justice is applied everywhere. Justice must be blind.

McCaslin: No, all this does is increase the costs of appeals for as long as the Governor is in office – it didn’t commute sentences. I would work on judicial reform, which would reduce the timeline for appeals, so they don’t drag on for 10-15 years. I support the death penalty.

Would you support higher gas taxes to pay for a transportation package? Why or why not? If yes, what projects would you like to see included in the package?

Christian: Time and time again those of us living on the east side of the mountains see Seattle mega-projects absorb the majority of transportation funds. The citizens of Spokane were promised with the last two gas tax increases that we would have our freeway completed. I am not in favor of new fees or taxes and any transportation package put forward would have to begin with major reforms and include a binding dollar amount that would not only complete the corridor, but also the Pines Road and Liberty Lake interchanges for me to support it.

Wilhite: We must be creative in finding ways to fund transportation projects first before considering raising the gas tax. With the fuel efficiency of cars and the growing interest in electric vehicles, we need to look for new funding sources for transportation. If additional federal taxes are imposed we need to look at how the impact of this increase would affect the state’s economy. There have been several proposals regarding reforms in the Transportation Department that would result in cost savings. These measures should be implemented. Priority should be given to the North Spokane Corridor to complete the project.

McCaslin: No. We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem. We have one of the highest gas taxes in the west. Citizens here expect me to work hard and go after common-sense reforms to generate money for a transportation package, not raise taxes. I would only support a transportation package that would seek governmental reforms. I want to see the North-South Freeway completed; I will push for that, but not at the expense of 4th District citizens. The core problem is how the state spends our transportation money.

Should the state continue freezing college tuition? Why or why not? If yes, how would you accomplish that? Christian: Washington public colleges have seen an average 9.5 percent tuition increase each year for the last 10 years, except for this year, my first year in office. While I don’t do not believe that everyone should go to college right out of high school, I do believe a college education should be in reach for the average student with a dream to better themselves. It’s time to stop spending our tax dollars expanding colleges that graduate students with $50,000 to $100,000 of debt that end working in fields below their degree.

Wilhite: The state should continue the freeze on college tuition for at least one more year and then evaluate the economic condition of the state as to funding of additional programs. House Bill 2720 was introduced in the legislature last session. This program called “Pay It Forward” would give another way for students to fund their college education. However, how this bill would be funded needs close scrutiny.

McCaslin: Yes. State universities have increased tuition every year since the Reagan era. If college tuition merely tracked inflation since then, student tuition at WSU would be $3,413 instead of $11,396! The Senate Majority Coalition has put a stop to that for two years. I would support something similar to that. It needs to be something a little more comprehensive that would hold higher education more accountable for its spending, like focusing on administrative salaries.

What should the state do about fishing consumption standards?

Christian: Centuries of polluting our rivers has caused the problem of toxins in our fish. This problem wasn’t created overnight and much has been done to clean our lakes, rivers and streams. Most toxic polluters have been stopped, but we need to continue to educate the public about proper disposal. I also want to give credit to fish and wildlife and health departments who are working together testing fish and letting the consumers know what is a safe level of fish to eat. I support a responsible partnership with the public, government and business to insure a clean and safe environment.

Wilhite: To raise the fish consumption standards means that changes to the water quality standards must be made. Substantial PCB reductions have been made since 1979 but the Spokane River Regional Toxic Task Force needs to continue to educate the public and create market incentives to improve water quality. All participants in the Washington economy should be incentivized to improve their environmental infrastructure. Increased water quality standards must be measurable to make sure that we are obtaining proven results. This problem was not created overnight so water quality will not be improved overnight.

McCaslin: Every person in the 4th District wants clean water and for Washington fish to be safe to eat. These standards have to be based on sound science, produce measurable environmental and human-health benefits, and ensure a competitive economic climate. I would vote for that. Some proposals would drive up our sewer bills over 300 percent, and our utility bills would rise by an estimated $2,400 per year. I would not support that.

Do you support the Growth Management Act? Why or why not?

Christian: Large populated areas must have a growth management plan to help guide smart growth where services such as sewer, water, schools and public safety can be provided. However, many of Eastern Washington’s small counties simply do not have the population to force this expense and burden on them. I fully support the repeal of the Growth Management Act in any county with a population of 30,000 or less and giving control of growth management to the county commissioners who are elected by the people to manage their county.

Wilhite: The adoption of the Voluntary Stewardship Program in 2011 gives the 28 counties that decided to participate in the program a better alternative to meet the desired outcomes of growth management, using regulation as the last resort. According to the program, it was to be evaluated in three years to determine if the goals of agricultural and environmental stewardship are being met. Thus, this evaluation needs to be done before deciding what to do with the Growth Management Act.

McCaslin: I do not support the GMA. Each county is different and has different circumstances and resources. Local elected officials should be making these decisions, not the Growth Management Board. They have a one-size-fits-all solution for growth that infringes on citizen’s property rights. I believe many counties should have the choice to opt out, as they don’t have the population, budget and infrastructure to be physically able to do it.



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