Dino Rossi, the Republican candidate for governor of Washington, told guests at Wednesday’s Greater Redmond Chamber of Commerce luncheon that, if elected, he would relieve traffic congestion on major freeways, including the never-ending bottleneck on the SR 520 floating bridge.
“We are gonna finish what we started,” Rossi, a Sammamish resident, told the crowd at Matt’s Rotisserie and Oyster Bar in Redmond Town Center, referring to his narrow loss to Democrat Christine Gregoire in 2004.
“I’m running against an incumbent but I’ve been through this drill before,” he remarked. He asked the audience to “compare and contrast what the incumbent has done” to what he proposes to do if elected.
He said he’ll offer “customer service” to the citizens in the state of Washington and noted that Washington lost $13 million in grant money for education “while adults were squabbling about how to divvy up the money. … Let squabbling adults’ chips fall where they may. What is in the best interest of the children?”
He also criticized the release of violent offenders who’ve gone on to commit more crimes, said this wouldn’t happen on his watch and added that he has been endorsed by a number of police guilds, including those of King County and Seattle, the two largest police unions in the Northwest.
But Rossi said his most resonant issues for this Chamber were transportation and relieving traffic congestion. He spoke of nine major projects listed on his Web site (www.dinorossi.com) to address the largest traffic jams throughout the state, including widening I-405 from SR 169 in Renton to I-90 in Bellevue, finishing Hwy. 167 up to Tacoma and increasing capacity on the SR 520 floating bridge.
“Another big concern to this area is Highway 2. Forty nine people have died on this road since 1999,” said Rossi, stating a need for safety improvements.
“Our economy will fail if we don’t do something about this,” he predicted, adding that although Gregoire has endorsed the same nine transportation projects, she’ll have to decide how to relieve congestion without raising taxes, which taxes to raise and how high – or whether we don’t relieve congestion.
He called his “the most comprehensive transportation plan since Governor Rosselini,” and quipped, “I guess you need another Italian to fix things around here.”
As well as hurting commerce, traffic issues impact “the quality of life and time spent with your family,” Rossi noted.
He spoke out against the death tax, said alcohol and cigarette taxes are already among the highest in the nation and that we can’t raise sales taxes more than 10 percent, while stating that Gregoire has said, “Citizens in the state of Washington just need to be educated about a state income tax.”
Rossi asked the luncheon crowd, “Do you folks need to be educated about a state income tax?” drawing groans and sarcastic laughter.
“Raising taxes would harm our economy, put people out of work,” he continued.
He also vowed to “protect the most vulnerable, the mentally ill, developmentally disabled and elderly. We really can be fiscally conservative but still have a conscience.”
Citing his background in the real estate field, he said he came from “a world of 100 percent commission – if you don’t work, you don’t live, you don’t eat,” and said he wants to make Washington state “the worst place in America to be a criminal and the best place for someone to start a business.”
Returning to the theme of his working-class roots, he hailed his parents who overcame poverty and raised a large, blended family as a beautician and school teacher.
He joked that when he began his political career, someone complained, “Who out here in East King County is gonna vote for someone whose name sounds like some kind of wine – and not the expensive kind?”
A brief question and answer session included a query about health care for the citizens of Washington.
“We clearly have a problem with access,” said Rossi. Whereas Gregoire has called for more regulation, he said he wants to see “how many health insurance companies can chase you for your business. You ought to be able to choose for yourself and for your employees, reduce costs and increase access.”
Another guest wanted to know how he’d solve the state’s education woes.
“It’s not just a funding problem, but attracting and retaining good, successful teachers. I believe in rewarding good teachers,” said Rossi, commenting on the number of people’s lives touched by his dad (as a teacher) in a positive way.
“I propose a different framework or model, not just based on tenure, but on quality of work.”