Issues of importance to the Eastside business community — most notably lowering the state budget deficit — were featured at a legislative candidates’ panel Oct. 20 at Redmond’s Hotel Sierra.
The luncheon event was hosted by the Greater Redmond Chamber of Commerce, Microsoft, Evergreen Hospital Medical Center and Puget Sound Energy.
Participants were Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48, Pos. 1) and his opponent Diane Tebelius (R); Rep. Deb Eddy (D-48, Pos. 2) and her opponent Philip Wilson (R); Sen. Rodney Tom (D-48) and his opponent Gregg Bennett (R); Sen. Eric Oemig (D-45) and his opponent Andy Hill (R); Rep. Roger Goodman (D-45, Pos. 1); Rep. Larry Springer (D-45, Pos. 2) and his opponent Mark Isaacs (R).
Kevin Haistings (R), who is running against Goodman, was scheduled to attend the event but was unable due to his duties as a police officer during President Obama’s visit to Seattle.
THE BUDGET DEFICIT
Steve Maffett, chair of the Redmond Chamber’s board of trustees, introduced the candidates, each of whom provided a brief opening statement.
Maffett asked, “How are you going to solve the (state) budget deficit this year?” The general consensus appeared to be that budgeting by priorities — meaning the priorities of the taxpayers — needed to be in place to balance the budget. Some candidates also gave specific examples of where they would or would not make budget cuts.
Wilson said the governor shouldn’t be negotiating issues such as pay raises or what to cut: “We have to get control of that spending … need to take priorities of government seriously.”
Eddy agreed, “Somewhere along the way they neglected to put a clear connection between what the legislature could do and what the government will do.”
Tebelius said, “Government can not be everything for everyone … (and) we have to find a way to get people back to work.”
Hunter said he’d go to an 80/20 split on what the government would fund for employee benefits, not fund Initiative 728 (reductions in class sizes, professional development for educators, pre-kindergarten support) or give teachers raises (I-732).
Bennett cited a need to “live within our means, be very pragmatic, have long-term sustainable programs rather than yo-yo-ing … prioritize public education and go back to priorities of government.”
Tom said he’d go back to things he already set out to do, including “privatize liquor stores” and added, “We have to get a handle on health care. Look at obesity and smoking … health problems that will affect our budget.”
Issacs pointed out, “Everyone says what they’re going to do” instead of “what should have been done. … Legislators must say, ‘We will take a cut, to lead the way.'”
Springer said, “Big numbers are in 732 and 728 and Medicaid” and listed K-12 education, public health/safety, infrastructure and social safety nets as priorities, in that order.
Goodman said he’d “increase medical insurance payments for state employees, not pay teachers more, not do anything about classroom size,” but would “invest now in technical and early learning.”
Hill commented, “The fastest way to get us out of this problem is to create jobs. We need relief for small businesses, regulatory relief. Government should be like a referee — enforce rules and call fouls. … Unfortunately, now, the government is part of the game.”
Oemig suggested, “Family planning is an investment that saves us money not just in the long term but short term.”
MANY HANDS MAKE LIGHT WORK
Maffett inquired, “How will you work in a non-partisan collaboration to solve Eastside and statewide business issues with the Eastside Caucus?”
Oemig said he regularly met with members of this group and worked on a child safety bill which he gave to a Republican colleague because it had originated in her district.
Hill stated, “If you don’t care so much about taking credit, you can get a lot done,” and mentioned his role in adding new soccer fields to Redmond’s 60 Acres Park as an example of “the spirit of compromise.”
Goodman remarked, “Bickering is a waste of time and money,” said he’d try to “be a problem solver, gather stakeholders” and that sharing of power and resources have helped to move the region closer to construction of a new SR 520 bridge.
Springer described collaboration as “a calling card” and said he’s looked at the Eastside Chamber legislative agenda as a “jumping off guide.”
Isaccs noted, “Who do you serve? … One has to have principles and stand upon those principles to ensure who we serve is who we best serve.”
Tom said he has friends on both sides of the political parties and added, “If we stay fragmented, Seattle will always win.”
However, Bennett disagreed, “I see Eastside leaders as Seattle-centric.” He said he envisioned Seattle as the new Minneapolis with the Eastside functioning like its twin city St. Paul, Minn.
Hunter said he was the 2009 Master Builders Legislator of the Year (in King and Snohomish Counties) and mentioned, “Let’s talk about 520 — we sat down with every single chamber on the Eastside and asked, ‘Is this what’s best?’.”
Tebelius said the process involves “not just coming up with solutions to problems, but getting the state to agree. … We need more Republicans in the the mix. … The proof is in how they voted.”
Eddy said the problem with Olympia is a “17th century institution — we are separated by an aisle. … We have to bring a balance of being a part of your team and reaching across the aisle.”
Wilson concluded, “What people want is stability. … We all have principles we believe in, have to work together with other people about solving problems.”
Maffett invited each of the panel participants to give a quick summary of “what you truly stand for and want to accomplish.”
Springer said it’s important to consider whether “people truly understand the problems you’re facing and how to solve the problems,” adding, “I don’t always believe in numbers that get tossed out” (by opponents) and “I had no idea I was beholden to Seattle.”
Goodman said, “It’s not about knocking heads, but building relationships. It’s not about me, it’s about service … (and) so relaxing to get other people’s ideas to improve public safety, improve education.”
Hill asked, “Are we better off now than four years ago?” and stated, “We’re at a critical point … for new leadership, new faces, balance.”
Wilson said he stands for “sound judgment and fiscal responsibility … who you elect will determine where we go in this state.”
Oemig said, “It’s not realistic to say I will never vote for a tax increase. It’s not realistic if we want to fund schools,” but said he’d seek more tax contrubitions from out-of-state businesses.
Bennett remarked, “If you’re happy with the directions you’re going in, vote for incumbents,” citing that he hasn’t “seen any employment decrease in the public sector, but less employment in the private sector.”
Hunter said, “We need to have a functioning economy, which is why I’ve supported large employers,” and that he’s both proposed and implemented how to fund K-12 in ways that are “concrete and practical.”
Tebelius countered that voters should consider what action incumbents have taken to “increase taxes and unsustainable spending. … We can not continue to support that government in Olympia.”
Eddy asked attendees to “Go to leg.wa.gov to see the arrangement of leadership between two parties. … I’ve received endorsements across the spectrum … representing broad interests.”
Tom said he’d like to be known as “the independent voice of reason,” as opposed to “grenade throwers” and said he’s spent countless hours on major issues such as budget, education and transportation: “I can get it done, I’m a proven leader.”
Isaccs concluded, “We did not get here by accident — increased spending, increased taxes,” and said that “200 years ago, our founding fathers … made a pledge to serve those we represent.”