48th, 45th District candidates tackle budget, education funding in Kirkland
By RAECHEL DAWSON
Kirkland Reporter Reporter
October 18, 2012 · 10:11 AM
Eight legislative candidates participated in a voters’ forum for the 45th and 48th Districts on Monday at the Woodmark Hotel with debate on their paramount duty – how to adequately fund education during the next biennium.
About 50 attendees watched as incumbent Rep. Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland) and Republican Joel Hussey of Redmond for Position 1, and incumbent Rep. Larry Springer (D-Kirkland) and Republican Jim Thatcher of Redmond for Position 2 debated on their stance for state representatives in the 45th District.
Incumbent Rep. Ross Hunter (D-Medina) and Republican Bill Hirt of Bellevue for Position 1, and Democrat Cyrus Habib of Kirkland and Republican Hank Myers of Redmond for Position 2 also tackled the issues facing the 48th District.
The event was hosted by the Greater Kirkland Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club of Kirkland.
Candidates asked questions about their opponents’ campaign strategies. Hot topics included false political advertising, who campaign donors are and clarifications on past rhetoric.
But many touched on a subject that’s rocked Washington for more than 20 years, but was heavily emphasized during the Washington Supreme Court’s McCleary v. State decision last January – to fully fund public education.
“It is our paramount duty to fund education first. Government is larger than we can currently afford,” Thatcher said. “Once we’ve funded schools, then we can take money to fund other programs.”
Currently, the Legislature is looking at an additional $4.1 billion that Randy Dorn, superintendent of public instruction, requested for the 2013-2015 biennial budget.
In last year’s McCleary decision, the state Supreme Court ordered the state to achieve full state funding of basic education by 2018.
Springer noted that the $4.1 billion has to come from somewhere and that legislators need to work together in bipartisanship or they won’t be “getting out of this mess.”
When the audience asked what cuts would be made as a way to come up with the $4.1 billion for education, three legislators were allowed a short answer.
Springer, although adamantly in favor of higher education, said funds would be taken from higher education or human services because they are the two “biggest expenses.”
“Higher education is the vehicle to getting out of poverty,” he said. “We need to build upon it, not cut (it).”
Hirt said he would cut funding for the Department of Ecology because he thinks they “don’t know what the hell they’re doing.”
Hunter said there have already been funding cuts to the Dept. of Ecology. But attendees showed disbelief when Hunter said cuts would have to be made to low-income health care for seniors.
“That is what is likely to get cut. It’s not my preference,” Hunter later told the Reporter via email. “It’s hard to see a lot of cuts that we can do in the corrections budget and the remaining budget is Medicaid.”
Hunter said the cost is lower to insure individual children versus costs for seniors per-capita who use Medicaid.
While all agreed on the benefit of charter schools, Goodman pointed out that the current initiative (I-1240) to bring charter schools to Washington doesn’t have much public accountability and he was concerned about the measure’s lack of school boards.
“They only do better by 17 percent,” he added.
Habib said he used to volunteer at a charter school and has seen how they allow all students to learn and achieve. But he also noted charter schools are not the answer for all 295 school districts.
One woman asked if the candidates supported Referendum 74 that would legalize same-sex marriage. Democrats Goodman, Springer, Hunter, Habib and Myers raised their hands in approval, while Hussey, Thatcher and Hirt did not.
Contact Kirkland Reporter Reporter Raechel Dawson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-822-9166 X5052.