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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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House foes differ widely on the issues

Benn, Riccelli discuss taxes, marijuana, charter schools

The next state representative from the district that represents central Spokane will be 34 and will be new to holding public office.

From there, however, the two candidates, Republican Tim Benn and Democrat Marcus Riccelli, differ greatly.

Riccelli supports same-sex marriage rights. Benn opposes them.

Benn supports a requirement that tax increases receive supermajority support. Riccelli opposes it.

Riccelli opposes a plan to allow charter schools. Benn supports it.

Five candidates ran for the seat now held by state Rep. Andy Billig, who opted to run for state Senate this year instead of seeking re-election to the House. Two Democrats and a Republican were eliminated in the August primary.

Riccelli argues that his experience working as an aide for U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell and more recently as the senior policy adviser to Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown, D-Spokane, has given him the ability to quickly “deliver for this community.”

“My experience has prepared me to be a strong voice for local businesses, schools and quality of life,” he said recently in a debate with Benn that aired on KSPS-TV. “I worked alongside our region’s leaders while advocating for expanding our aerospace industry, investing in our Riverpoint campus and developing a four-year medical school.”

Benn became publicly active in local politics recently as he worked to stop new state regulations on day care centers, which he argued were harmful to businesses. He and his wife run a day care center in Spokane. He says the district needs new leadership to help small businesses.

“We’ve got to get the state policies and the bureaucracies out of the way of the job creators so people can get back to work,” Benn said at the KSPS debate.

The following are excerpts from a 15-topic Spokesman-Review questionnaire. Each candidate was allowed up to 100 words to address each topic. Candidates are listed in the order they will appear on the November ballot. The full questionnaire, including questions on gay marriage, tax reform and college tuition, can be found attached to candidate profiles at spokesman.com/elections.

1. Why are you the best candidate?

Riccelli: 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.

Benn: I have lived in Spokane my whole life and would represent the 3rd District with honesty, integrity and common sense.

2. Do you support the voter-approved rule that stipulates 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?

Riccelli: 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.

Benn: Yes and yes!

3. 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?

Riccelli: 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.

Benn: Twenty lanes wide seems excessive and expensive. I would not support asking voters for a gas tax increase since the voters are already burdened with more gas taxes than most states.

4. 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?

Riccelli: 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.

Benn: I do not support legalizing something that is still illegal on a federal level, thus causing more conflicts and wasted time, money and resources on both the state and federal level. It seems that this is a federal decision not a state decision.

5. Do you support the state law that allows local governments to install red light enforcement cameras?

Riccelli: 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.

Benn: I do not support the red light camera law. The cameras are expensive and the photographs that the enforcement cameras take are often not usable, so I believe that tax dollars could be better spent.

6. Should the state allow the creation of charter schools?

Riccelli: No. I believe there are ways to enhance and spark innovation and accountability in our current public schools to better serve all students.

Benn: I support the creation of charter schools depending on the structure that is being used as a model. If the model used allows for creative and innovative ways to teach different curricula than the state and allows for more local control of content and structure, then I wholeheartedly support charter schools. Parental choice in the education of their children is positive.

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