My questions bold, Dusty Hoerler’s as they were sent:
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?
The state is clearly not living up to its duty to provide for the education of young people. I was heartened by the fact that our state’s education budget emerged from the last session relatively intact, but I’m not satisfied merely holding the line. We’ll need to dedicate an additional $6.8 billion per biennium through 2018 to fund K-12 education at a level consistent with our constitutional mandate. That’s a tall order, and it simply cannot be done without raising more revenue.
But this is about more than obeying a court order to meet our constitutional obligations – it’s about the long-term strength of our democracy and our economy. That means that we have to take a broader view of education, to include early learning and making our public universities affordable again. We are seeing an alarming trend in higher education. Tuition at University of Washington has nearly doubled in the last four years, and, according to an article in Monday’s Seattle Times, tuition is projected to surpass $20,000 per year for in-state students by the end of this decade.
Why? Because our state legislators decided to, in part, balance the state’s budgets on middle and working class families and their children. Just four years ago, tuition only covered 41% of the costs of a UW education, while today, tuition pays 71% of the cost. In addition to our four-year schools, we also need to support our community colleges and trade schools, who are seeing similar budget cuts.
2) Washington State voters recently rejected an income tax. Most of the revenue that the legislature might be able to raise 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?
Washington’s tax system is one of the most regressive in America. The wrong people are being taxed too much! I believe that the rich and corporations need to pay their fair share. Not only are the poorest Washingtonians being taxed, but our tax dollars are indirectly subsidizing special interest loopholes. Here’s what I propose:
A. Sunset all corporate tax breaks. I’m in favor of legislation that sunsets all corporate tax breaks automatically. There are certainly some tax breaks that I support: Those encouraging the development of clean energy and green jobs, for instance. However, the legislature should reauthorize them every five years – at a minimum. If they prove to be productive, we should keep them on the books. But some of the tax breaks are frankly silly and need to be eliminated.
B. Aggressively prosecute corporate cheaters. I believe that if hard working people play by the
rules, they should be able to get ahead. However, time and time again, we see big corporations who are willing to step outside the law. While most of these transgressions have occurred elsewhere, I believe that we must draw the line in the sand against abuses in Washington State.
C. Our discussion about the income tax is not over – not as far as I’m concerned. I intend to be just as vocal a proponent of the progressive income tax in Olympia (and across the whole state) as I have been in this campaign.
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?
I’m a grassroots organizer – my political experience is in the hard work of organizing workers and mobilizing voters. I believe in the power of pressuring elected representatives from below, and I believe the voters of Republican-leaning districts share the concerns of the voters of my own district. We value effective schools and quality infrastructure, and we’re frustrated by a legislature mired in deadlock. I’ve been endorsed by normally Republican-leaning groups such as the Mechanical Contractors Association because I believe in reaching out, listening, forging relationships, and finding common ground. I think the best way to break that deadlock is to speak to voters in conservative districts directly.
I have volunteered to organize a Values and Priorities Tour that crisscrosses our state from small rural towns to urban city centers. In community centers and public school auditoriums, union halls and parking lots, we’ll have a frank discussion about our challenges, our values, the measures we need to introduce some common sense to our tax and budget systems – and what working people can do to help. I’ve learned something important: If we want to change the way our state does business in the face of special interest lobbyists, we’ve got to rally the people who have the most at stake in the decisions Olympia makes.
4) You’re running in a race with many Democrats who share similar positions. What separates you from the rest of the field?
I respect and appreciate the strong progressives in this race. But even in a race where each candidate can advance the right positions and promise the right votes, background matters: It molds the values you’ll refuse to compromise and determines what you’ll fight the hardest for.
I offer a blue-collar background. I’m a plumber by trade, a veteran union organizer and homeowner advocate. I co-founded SustainableWorks, an energy-efficiency nonprofit, to help jumpstart our state’s investment in clean energy jobs. (I’ve helped create jobs in the middle of a recession, while at the same time helping protect the environment — over the last three years, SustainableWorks has created 55 good, family wage jobs.) Last year, I organized a group of homeowners to travel to Olympia to testify in favor of foreclosure mediation legislation. My civic life has been dedicated to creating security and opportunity for working families, and this campaign has been bolstered by the contributions – of money, yes, but primarily of time and sweat – of middle-class workers. I believe that this is a seat we need to retain for working families.
5) Seattle and King County give more to the state than they get back. Part is 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?
The best answer is the politically hardest one: We need a restructuring of our revenue system, and that means communicating directly with our cross-state neighbors. We can change the way Olympia does business, but it starts with a discussion. I’m running to help lead that discussion.