My questions in bold, Gael Tarleton’s answers are below.
1) The state’s paramount duty is education. Do you feel the state is living up to that duty? If not, what needs to happen to live up to it?
We are not fully funding public education. It is the moral and constitutional obligation we must meet. To fully fund public education, we must think about providing early childhood education through lifelong learning. We need to change the discussion so that we prioritize funding to achieve shared education goals:
- We want 80 percent of high school students earning their high school diplomas 10 years from now. Therefore, we should fund public school systems to help them reach that goal – and that means working with teachers, administrators, parents and kids to help communities with the resources needed to succeed.
- We want early childhood learning centers in every school district in the state to be accessible and affordable. Therefore, we must fund programs in parts of the state with limited numbers of early childhood learning centers.
- We want our higher education system focused on serving our residents who are ready for college-level courses and technical school programs. Therefore, we must fund programs that help high school teachers and college deans and departmental chairs co-develop high school curricula, especially in English, Life Sciences, Foreign Languages, Applied Mathematics, and Sociology/History.
- Our higher educational institutions must have the No. 1 priority of making higher education affordable and accessible to all our citizens for lifelong learning. Any newly available revenues must immediately support hiring new teachers so that more courses are taught, which in turn will allow higher ed to admit more students each year. At a minimum, we should aspire to have 70 percent of incoming undergraduate students at our four-year institutions each year be Washington residents. We should expect and plan for having 90 percent of first- time students in our community colleges and technical schools be Washington residents. We must place special priority in the next decade on having our higher education system serve high school graduates from low-income and immigrant communities, returning veterans, and adults who have lost jobs and are preparing for a new career.
The most important task we face is to set shared goals now, develop a 10-year funding plan, and examine how existing revenues must be more effectively allocated to get to work on these four goals. As new revenues are available from various sources, we will have a strategic plan for how best to allocate those dollars.
We have the following options for public revenues: school bond levies in local jurisdictions; state tax revenues to support low-interest student loans, salaries, operations, capital infrastructure, and programmatic initiatives; federal grants to match state programs for student loans, free- and reduced-lunch programs; and potentially new taxes if the state’s Supreme Court upholds the King County ruling that I-1053 is unconstitutional.
From a budgeting and planning perspective, we must have two scenarios in mind: what we do if I-1053 is overturned, and what we do if it is not. The obligation to fully fund public education is the constant in a sea of uncertainty. How we meet this obligation is up to us. After working for eight years at the University of Washington to help secure millions of dollars in grants and gifts for faculty and students, I know the impact that these investments have on the economy, environment, and quality of life for all Washingtonians. We must meet this funding challenge.
2) Washington State voters recently rejected an income tax. Most of the revenue that the legislature might be able to pass is quite regressive. Will you push for revenue, and if so, how will you make sure the burdens don’t fall on the poorest Washingtonians?
Yes, I will be an advocate for the following kinds of revenue options and reforms:
- Examine the current constraints on how local jurisdictions, especially special-purpose districts, are able to use their existing taxing authority with property taxes.
- Develop strategies for enabling local jurisdictions to enter into time-limited partnerships where they create funding mechanisms for building a 21st Century infrastructure for a clean economy: multi-jurisdictional transit systems; construction and technology solutions to stop toxic runoff from local communities to protect Puget Sound, rivers and streams; shared investment in renewable energy infrastructure such as electric charging networks; and other capital-intensive investments that local jurisdictions cannot handle on their own.
- Develop a rate-paying “environmental infrastructure district” system to have all users pay into the equivalent of a public utilities district. This is the kind of progressive reform that makes all of us responsible for clean air and clean water infrastructure investments.
- Adopt “system tolling” on critical transportation corridors to fund regional transit solutions and safe pedestrian/bicycling corridors that separate freight and autos from bikes and pedestrian users.
- Identify a more fair and equitable way to use B&O revenues to reinvest in what small-business owners need most and do best: to help them hire and retain more employees, reduce the cost of start-up loans, incentivize innovative strategies for clean energy and clean trade; and make them the centerpiece of how we build a modern economy beyond fossil fuels.
- When we pass legislation regarding tax exemptions, we must understand what programs will be most affected by exempting private entities from paying their taxes. State legislators should identify what sources of revenue will be used to protect against the constant erosion of critical funding obligations resulting from tax exemptions.
3) There is a good chance that the State Senate and/or the Governor’s Mansion will be controlled by Republicans after the next election, and certainly most legislators will be more conservative than people who would be elected in a Seattle district. Given that how will you get your agenda passed?
There is an equally good chance that the Governor’s Mansion, State’s Attorney General, and both State legislative bodies will be controlled by Democrats. Recent Elway polls show that the state’s political climate and voter party affiliation are not growing more conservative: voters are instead becoming more independent. Some observers believe independents tend to vote Democratic more frequently than they vote Republican. The 36th District is frequently described as the anchor of liberal, progressive Seattle politics. It is also home to more than 20,000 working-class jobs in the Ballard-Interbay Manufacturing Industrial Center, including 15,000 jobs related to the fishing and seafood processing markets. There are thriving small business communities in every corner of the District. The District is where the working class and middle class co-exist. This strengthens our communities because we believe in teachers, metal workers, fishers, start-up companies, family-owned small businesses, parks for kids, and the dignity of work with living wages, regardless of the type of job a person might hold.
We have an aggressive agenda for job creation, expanding higher education affordability, providing healthcare, and protecting our environment. We are also home to a recreational boating industry that generates $3.5 billion in revenues across the state, as well as home to the grain terminal at Pier 86 that makes Washington’s agricultural firms competitive in a global economy where 90 percent of their business comes from exports through the Port of Seattle. When we focus on creating jobs, expanding markets for Washington companies, and strengthening opportunities for Washingtonians to pursue higher education, we will help legislators from all over the state share common cause.
That said, I’ve learned from experience that solutions to problems don’t happen with group think. I don’t just reach across the aisle; I’ve reached across continents and communities to do the hard work of creating jobs, building bridges, and protecting communities. To help create an international earthquake monitoring network, I worked with Russians and Ukrainians and the International Atomic Energy Agency. To fight human trafficking, I’ve worked with State Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, D-36, and King County Councilmember Kathy Lambert. To help rebuild the South Park Bridge, I worked with the South Park Neighborhood Association, the Machinists, and colleagues at the Port, City, County and State to find the funding. And to build the Rental Car Facility that created more than 3,700 jobs in South King County, I worked with elected officials in the State Legislature as well as Sea-Tac, Des Moines, and Burien.
4) You’re running in a race with many Democrats who share similar positions. What separates you from the rest of the field?
We’re all asking the voters to hire us to do a job. We may share the same values, but we all have different experience and qualifications to do the job of a lawmaker. I’m asking the voters to hire me because I have the experience and skills of working in the public and private sectors creating jobs, solving difficult problems, and managing millions of dollars in budgets. When it comes to solving tough problems with responsible funding strategies, my experiences working in federal, state, and local governments as well as in a technology company and international markets give me a deep reservoir of ideas, lessons learned, and experts to help find solutions. These are the resources that will help me do the work that voters are hiring me to do.
As a Port Commissioner, I have helped create 7,000 living wage jobs through critical public works projects. At UW, I’ve worked with scientists, engineers, historians, political scientists, archeologists, musicians, and cybersecurity experts to help secure millions of dollars in grants and endowments for faculty and students. I’ve worked with legislators from all over the state to help criminalize human trafficking, create more open contracting laws, and build transit and transportation corridors that help our companies compete globally. To accelerate a clean, green trade agenda in Washington, I’ve supported partnerships with the Port of Seattle, WSU, Climate Solutions and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to develop an aviation biofuels market based in Washington, while also supporting investments in electrification and renewable energy infrastructure. And as a federal government employee, I’ve written policies and run programs regarding critical national security interests and concerns.
5) Seattle and King County give more to the state than they get back. Part of this is reasonable things like the cost of providing education and social services in rural and suburban areas, but part of it is a lack of respect for Seattle and King County with the legislature that treats us as an ATM. How will you make sure your district gets its fair share of revenue without harming education or social services throughout the state?
We all have a stake in the success of our schools and our students, regardless of their home base. We will all benefit if we have affordable access to public health centers and community clinics. We all share a stake in tackling climate change and building the foundation for a clean economy in the 21st century. If we reflect on how the concept of the public commons emerged in Washington, it will help us understand how to think about sharing resources with communities and regions that don’t live in our own backyard.
All property owners pay property taxes to build infrastructure and invest in healthy, safe communities. However, not all people who benefit from investments in the public commons are paying property taxes. Does that mean we stop paying our fair share of taxes? No. It would be short-sighted when we want to collectively improve the quality of life for everyone, not just the District we represent. The state pays only 7 percent of the annual operating costs of the University of Washington, its flagship public university. Just 20 years ago, the state paid closer to 40 percent of the total annual operating costs. Yet UW benefits the public commons of the whole state, Pacific Northwest, the nation and the world. UW’s nursing and public health graduates are the people who staff community health clinics and protect public health systems throughout the state and the Pacific Northwest. The UW School of Medicine receives $700 million a year from the federal government to educate the doctors who will be serving rural, low-income, and underserved communities with safe healthcare. Researchers at UW spawned the life sciences research community that has become home to the Gates Foundation, PATH, and Nobel Laureates – all in our district.
When we talk about who is getting their “fair share” of the tax pie, it is a familiar refrain that another part of the state benefits from King County’s and Seattle’s wealth. But the people in Seattle and King County who like to go skiing in the Cascades, own homes on Lake Chelan, go hiking on Mount Adams, or take weekends sampling wines in Walla Walla are only able to enjoy these benefits because they can fly there, drive there, drink clean water, and benefit from cheap electricity. And they benefit when their kids decide they’d rather go to school at WSU or Central Washington because they like the idea of dry, sunny weather three weeks in a row.
We will create jobs, opportunities, and a cleaner economy if we invest in research at Central Washington University or in social services for returning veterans in Tacoma or Yakima. The 36th District’s small businesses want to hire people who are prepared for jobs in the trades, fishing industry, biotechnology companies, or software start-ups. One of the most important roles I will play in Olympia for my district is making sure we are showing how tax revenues are used to create jobs, prepare employees for high-demand job markets, and give all our communities a chance to live a decent life and pursue affordable education.
My proposal to create a sustainable funding base for public health revolves around this idea of a shared stake in a common network. The “Public Access To Health Services” (PATH) center calls for reforming the way we use property tax authority of special purpose districts in the state. If we allow special purpose districts to share their property taxes to create local health centers, we stand a chance of putting public health services on a sustainable financial path. My district would help lead the way, as we have thousands of public health professionals, caregivers, and small business owners who would be potential partners in making affordable health care, family planning, adult day care, and other essential services available to our communities.
Our district also believes in investing in a clean economy future. Our ideas and know-how for designing and building environmental infrastructure systems for homeowners and small business owners will create best practices for others around the state. When we share knowledge and solutions that help our own communities, we are creating the foundation for helping all Washingtonians live in healthy, safe communities where they will enjoy a better quality of life.