Voters in Washington’s 4th Legislative District will have a chance to choose between familiar names and a newcomer for the district’s Senate seat, with longtime incumbent Mike Padden, mountaineer and former county commissioner John Roskelley and marketing business owner Ann Marie Danimus all running.
Roskelley, a former Democratic county commissioner, argued that the 4th District delegation, which consists of Padden, Rep. Bob McCaslin Jr. and Matt Shea, who is not running for re-election, have gone along with other Republicans, don’t represent their constituents well and voted “no” against environmental and growth management initiatives.
“They’re just not representing a great deal of their constituents by just blanketing their votes the way they do,” Roskelley said.
Danimus, an independent, said she was partially running against Padden because he mostly seems focused on fighting Democrats instead of introducing new ideas.
Padden, a Republican, said his representation and votes on issues are a reflection of the people who put him in office, and he has concrete legislative accomplishments that required bipartisanship, such as a recent bill he sponsored that the governor signed into law allowing compensation for parents of child crime victims under the Crime Victims’ Compensation Program.
“I represent a viewpoint of a majority of the voters who are generally to the right of center,” Padden said.
While all three candidates have different approaches to addressing the budget and other pressing issues in the state, every candidate said tackling a tightening budget was likely the most important task they’ll be faced with in Olympia next legislative session.
Washington is facing a $7 billion budget deficit in the next three years due to the economic impacts of COVID-19.
Padden said he would start by looking at pausing some scheduled pay increases and rethinking other projects the state might soon spend money on. Padden gave the example of a recent $750,000 study on removing the Snake River Dams as one potential cost he would have cut.
He said the governor’s instructions for state agencies to prepare for 15% cuts may be a little more than necessary, and there could be a less harmful, strategic way the Legislature could address budget issues once they have a chance to meet. He also said the last thing he wants to do is raise taxes.
“We should not be spending money on new programs, and we should look at not having the pay raises go into effect,” he said. “We have to see if there’s ways of doing things more efficiently.”
Roskelley said he has experience coming into office and working to fix ailing budgets from when he was first elected county commissioner in the 1990s. He said he and fellow Commissioner Kate McCaslin, a Republican, worked to build back up a depleted reserve and search for savings where they could.
“We controlled that budget enough that we (dealt with the) revenue and increased expenses by line-item budgeting,” he said. “Basically just taking apart every department, going back, seeing where the fat was and cutting it, and it’s the same way with the state.”
He said legislators need to look at what departments are required to do by the state and what can be cut. He said cutting expenses can only go so far, and the state should look at revenue, mostly tax exemptions on certain types of businesses and products.
“You should be able to save quite a bit of money, and get it back, by reducing and eliminating those exemptions,” he said.
Danimus called for a “surgical approach” to addressing the state’s budget shortfall, saying legislators need to go through it line-by-line during the session to see how they can responsibly cut costs. She said the state also needs to look at responsibly investing in some programs, such as foster care, which will save them funds in the future. She said investments in retaining good foster families and training will mean less foster children will be in hotel rooms for long periods of time and hopefully will be placed with families sooner.
All three candidates say the state Legislature should take a look at policing issues during the 2020 session. Roskelley called for banning rubber bullets and tear gas and to look at more alternatives such as drug courts.
Padden said he needs to study policing issues more but said there is room for legislative action, such as potentially finding a way to look at how police unions are involved in the reinstatement process, and arbitrate issues with cities. He said sometimes an officer accused of wrongdoing and fired is reinstated through a union grievance process, which can create issues. He said he doesn’t necessarily plan on introducing a bill but would like to create some sort of work group to address that issue.
“I would be more interested in trying to work together with both groups to get something that’s an improvement over the current existence that that people can live with,” he said. “I don’t want to run over the rank-and-file either, but I do think there needs to be some changes.”
Danimus said the Legislature should see if there is a way to reimagine policing and maybe take some responsibilities that police perform, such as traffic stops, and allow officers only armed with a Taser, or a non-deadly weapon, to take those on. Danimus, who lived and owned a business in Mexico for several years, said communities there have traffic-only officers who deal with situations differently than other uniformed officers do.
Padden said he plans to continue supporting Spokane Valley-area infrastructure projects, which are often dependent on funding approved by the state Legislature, and said he plans to focus on other infrastructure projects.
Roskelley said he would also focus on the budget, but is passionate about the environment, land use issues and the Growth Management Act. He said keeping the state’s environment pristine will have long-term benefits in multiple ways, including to the state’s economy, because well-kept natural areas attract tourists.
“We have to leave this state better than we found it, and clean air, clean water and try to get more wildlife habitat,” he said.
Danimus said her focus would be trying to reform business and occupation taxes. She said the state should waive the first year of business and occupation taxes for new businesses, and create different grades of taxes for different types of businesses.