My questions in Bold, Shelly Crocker’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?
In a recent publication, Washington was given a “C” rating for our public schools overall, and is 42nd out of 50 in per-pupil spending. If that is the best we can do in achieving our paramount duty, we aren’t trying hard enough. How to approach K-12 education is a highly contentious issue, however. Voters have rejected charter schools time and again, and it is time to realize that there is no magic fix, but there are things we can do right away to get closer to meet our duty to the state. We need to make sure teachers are adequately paid with cost of living increases, but still held accountable for their performance. Increasing teacher’s attention to each student by reversing the size of our growing class is as simple as re-hiring some of the thousands of qualified teachers who have been laid off in the past few years.
Additionally, the massive cuts in higher education (50% in three years) must be reversed. Our universities are a public good: we cannot make cost a prohibitive factor for students, and burdening students with debt is just another regressive tax.
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?
Washington has the most regressive tax structure in the country, and if we want to give more than just lip service to the different worthwhile services that have been fighting in a zero-sum game down in Olympia, we need to create a fairer and more sustainable revenue stream. However, the reality in Olympia makes it extremely difficult to create substantial tax reform. It is the nickel and dime regressive taxes and fees that have made people so disillusioned with government, and I will do everything I can to avoid creating more of them. Whoever is elected to represent the 46th will have the privilege of being a strong voice for tax reform, including advocating for an equitable income tax, as our District strongly supports increasing revenues.
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?
Frankly, to faithfully represent my District, there are many issues I will not be able to compromise on with Republicans. However, the obstructionist politics we’ve seen from Republicans at the federal level lead to dysfunctional government. Washingtonians do share many values, whatever their political persuasion, and I will work to find areas of common ground. Very few bills fit as cleanly along the ideological spectrum as we’d like to believe, and a high majority of bills that pass through the Legislature receive some level of bipartisan support. If Republicans gain a majority in the Senate, I will look across the aisle to find areas of agreement, and I will keep an open mind toward any bill that comes before me in the Legislature, no matter where it came from.
4) You’re running in a race with many Democrats who share similar positions. What separates you from the rest of the field?
All of my fellow Democratic candidates are competent individuals and share similar progressive values, but what sets me apart is the breadth of my life experience. If you name any walk of life, I’ve probably been there. I’m a high school dropout. I came out as a lesbian and left home when I was 15. I came to Seattle, and with the help of Pell grants, financial aid, and other government services I was able to work my way through Seattle Central Community College and the University of Washington. I understand the value of these services, and I can appreciate the situations of the less fortunate among us because I’ve experienced it firsthand.
Now I own a successful law firm, and I see a whole other side of our community. In my work as an insolvency and bankruptcy attorney, along with my continuing work in my community, I work hard every day to make sure people get a second chance. I’m not afraid to stand up against big banks and mortgage companies, and I’ve been taking on those fights in the courts, one family at a time. As a volunteer, I have also worked hard to end homelessness, travelling to Olympia as a citizen advocate to speak with legislators about preserving our social safety net. These experiences have taught me that working together, we can make our world better. It won’t be easy, but I’ve faced up to some of life’s toughest challenges and come through them stronger, and I am ready to take on the challenges of representing our District in Olympia.
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 are lucky to live in an area of the state with so many successful companies and economic potential, and a part of being so successful means being a tax exporter: the taxes we pay are going to the places that need it most. What is needed is complete tax reform to bring about a more equitable tax system overall. The residents of the 46th District are generally not adverse to paying taxes when they trust that the money is being used fairly and effectively. However, there are also social and infrastructure needs right here in the 46th, and I will not let my constituents be neglected.