My questions in bold; Sarajane Siegfriedt’s as is.
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?
Obviously, the state is not living up to its paramount duty. The judge in the McCleary case made this crystal clear, as did another judge in a similar case in the 70s. “Paramount duty” is most often interpreted as 50% of the state budget. We are currently devoting only about 42% of the $32 billion budget to Basic Education. (Basic Education was expanded by the legislature in the 2011 session.) We are $4 billion short. The “down payment” of $1 billion for K-12 Basic Education is due in the 2013-2015 biennial budget. We have to make up another $3 billion by 2018. As the Governor said and as both candidates for Governor failed to grasp, we have to raise taxes to pay for this.
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?
I am not the only candidate or legislator who will refuse to vote to raise the sales tax. For a decade, I have long fought for social and economic justice as part of the Poverty Action Network. Three years ago, I joined with Fuse, the WA Budget & Policy Center and many others as the Our Economic Future Coalition to propose progressive plans to increase revenue. I support a capital gains tax, which falls on the top 3% and exempts sale of a primary residence. It’s time to revisit the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax. It’s been 10 years since Eyman’s initiative eliminated it, economic times have changed, huge budget cuts have been made and transit and ferries have suffered without the tax. The MVET is inherently a progressive tax. We also need a per-barrel tax on oil. The 60% tuition increases at our colleges and universities since 2009 constitute one of the worst taxes on the poor (especially community college and voc/tech) and they need to be reversed. This is a wealthy state, but our tax system doesn’t reflect that fact. Wealthy individuals and corporations need to pay their fair share.
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 disagree with your premise. I believe we will be able to pass more progressive taxes for several reasons. One reason is that the challenge to Eyman’s I-1053 was ruled unconstitutional. I believe the Supreme Court will sustain this ruling before the beginning of the 2013 session. I believe the Democrats will retain a working majority in both houses, based in part on Obama’s popularity and the presence of the marijuana and equal marriage initiatives on the ballot. Second, education is widely supported by both parties and we have the McCleary ruling, which makes raising taxes imperative under any governor. Third, we have a bipartisan legislative task force that must come up with a plan to raise $1 billion for Basic Ed before the session starts—or else. Fourth, we have the House Democratic Caucus coming up with their own progressive plan to raise revenue. Fifth, we are far more likely now than in prior years to reform the system of tax exemptions, because the Grover Norquist pledge was broken by the Republicans last session when they sponsored and voted to repeal the Wall Street Bank tax exemption. There are 570 tax exemptions that lack a statement of legislative intent. This will change, and measurable outcomes for tax exemptions will be demanded.
4) You’re running in a race with many Democrats who share similar positions. What separates you from the rest of the field?
I’m the only candidate endorsed by the 46th District Democrats, the King County Democrats, and Rep. Phyllis Kenney, whom I hope to succeed. I have a record of fighting for social and economic justice on state issues. I have been focused on Olympia since I lobbied there for alcohol and drug treatment fulltime in the 2002 session. Afterward, I joined several boards, including Solid Ground, one of the largest social service agencies in King County. We recently produced 50 units of low-income family housing at Sand Point, with 50 more on the way. I am the only candidate who has been involved with the Democratic Party. Since 2004, my involvement has been with issues, writing platforms and more recently as Legislative Action Chair of the King County Democrats—their volunteer lobbyist, if you will. The job includes working with labor and all the major progressive coalitions and with legislators to form a consolidated legislative agenda. I track bills, send out legislative alerts and organize a lobby day. More than anything else, this position has given me the breadth of experience to make informed decisions on priority legislation in Olympia. Our number one priority has been progressive revenue reform, in order to pay for everything else, including education, the safety net, housing and the environment.
I have lived in the 46th District for the past 15 years, in Lake City. I’m involved in my district, with issues of homelessness and plans for transit-oriented pedestrian-friendly mixed-income communities at Lake City and at Northgate. I’m also the only candidate with an appointive public board position. I serve on the King County Board of Equalization, hearing appeals of property tax assessments. I’m the only candidate with an MBA and with a background in business. I’ve worked for AT&T and for Boeing (for seven years). I combine private sector and non-profit management experience with public service and extensive knowledge of state issues.
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?
How can we argue that wealthy individuals and corporations should pay their fair share, meaning they pay more than they get back, when we don’t expect the wealthiest county in the state to do the same? There are several counties that cannot perform the basic functions of county government, as required by law, without substantial state assistance. Does that mean the other counties should have fewer requirements?
Fairness is in the eye of the beholder. I will fight for my district to get its fair share of transportation funds to maintain State Road 522, otherwise known as Lake City Way/Bothell Way, because it is a state highway carrying far more heavy truck traffic than before tolling began on the 520 bridge. The town of Kenmore, with 22,000 residents, is being forced to pay $68 million in road repairs on its “main street” that should be the state’s responsibility. The state is paying for the 520 bridge and most of the Hwy. 99 tunnel. When it comes to funding education and social services, two of the state’s top responsibilities, why is it inherently better or worse to fund a teacher or a foster children’s case manager in Seattle or in Yakima? In the end we must trust these state departments to allocate their funds on the basis of need, not silos or fiefdoms. (Trust, then audit?) Perhaps the founders of Kentucky and Massachusetts got it right when they named them “commonwealths,” not states. The name emphasizes an idea that has been neglected. We are all in this together.