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Tuesday, July 14, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Opinion >  Editorial

Fisken tops strong treasurer field

State Treasurer Jim McIntire is not running for re-election, which has triggered a competitive race to replace him. As the state’s chief financial officer, he has managed finances and invested wisely, and we wouldn’t want big changes in that area.

McIntire also produced an alternative tax-code proposal that includes an income tax but lowers the regressive sales and property taxes. The Legislature will need to find more revenue to satisfy the Supreme Court’s McCleary mandate for identifying a sustainable revenue source to fund basic education. McIntire has shown the state could raise more money without increasing the overall tax burden.

We’ve long said the tax code relies too heavily on regressive sales and business taxes. Liberal lawmakers bash the former and conservatives bludgeon the latter, but the code never changes. We think it’s appropriate for the treasurer to keep this conversation alive.

Republican Duane Davidson, the longtime Benton County treasurer, disagrees. Personally, he opposes an income tax, but also says the 1 percent annual property tax cap has put significant strain on rural counties. However, he says the office should remain neutral on policy. Impressively, he has earned the endorsements of 31 of the 39 county treasurers, including some Democrats.

Republican Michael Waite is a private investment manager who is making his first run for public office. He says he would actively oppose an income tax and counsel the Legislature to “live within its means.” As a practical matter, that means permanent service cuts to raise the money needed to fund basic education. He has been endorsed by former Attorney General Rob McKenna.

Sen. Marko Liias, D-Edmonds, and Seattle Democrat John Paul Comerford are both qualified but want the office to become active in areas we’re not comfortable with. Liias would like for the office to leverage its expertise to help people invest and save for retirement. Comerford, who has a banking background, is interested in starting a state bank to fill unmet financing needs. The state doesn’t need to take on new services. Comerford also wants the state to begin divestment of fossil fuel investments. We want the office to maximize returns, not play investment politics.

Alec Fisken, a Democrat, is a former Port of Seattle commissioner with extensive experience in municipal finance. He worked for Rainier National Bank and Prudential Bache in the private sector. He was hired by the city of Seattle as its financial adviser, overseeing infrastructure projects. His technical expertise gives him an advantage and, crucially, he has the endorsement of McIntire.

Fisken has spent time with the state’s investment managers and says he would retain key people. At the port, he fought for increased transparency. He says he likes McIntire’s progressive tax proposal and would want to be part of any discussion on changing the code, but he would be more diplomatic about it.

In a strong field of candidates, he earned our endorsement.

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