39th District race puts opposites against each other
SNOHOMISH COUNTY — In the 39th District, the two candidates for State Rep. Position 1 have vastly different outlooks on how the state should run.
Republican Robert Sutherland, a biochemist, won office in 2018 after handily defeating Democrat Ivan Lewis. He supports giving parents more educational choices by having tax money follow the student versus automatically going to the public school system (creating a marketplace of schooling), supports $30 car tabs, opposes per-mile taxes and says that lowering property taxes will yield more housing affordability.
Democrat Claus Joens is today a high school teacher and formerly worked in corporate finance. He supports bipartisanship, tax reform, affordable housing and climate change initiatives.
He ran against state Sen. Keith Wagoner in 2018, but sees stark difference with Sutherland.
“With Wagoner, we could disagree. With Sutherland, we don’t even agree on the facts,” Joens said in a conversation with a reporter.
The 39th District covers Monroe and the Sky Valley, as well as most of north county. (The City of Snohomish is in the 44th District.)
In the primary, Sutherland carried 61 percent of the vote to Joens’ 39 percent.
Ballots begin being mailed Oct. 15.
The Tribune asked the candidates on roadway funding, homelessness strategies, balancing the state budget and encouraging more affordable housing. and is printing their full, complete answers below:
Q) What would be your funding plan to help accomplish widening the last gap of SR-522 for Monroe drivers?
Sutherland: Currently only about $1.50 of the $30.00 car tab revenue goes towards the stated purpose of “road maintenance and repair.” My proposal would be to allocate more of that revenue for projects like the expansion of the 522.
Joens: The Paradise Lake Road interchange improvement project requires an estimated $180 million additional funding for widening and interchange improvement to include improvements, design, right-of-way acquisition, and construction. This represents about 40% of the annual revenue car tabs raised before the vote to cut them to $30. With an estimated $4.4 Billion budget deficit in the next biennium, I really do not anticipate being able to raise the funds for this until the 2023-2025 biennium.
Q) In short, what do you believe is the best next step to addressing chronic homelessness through Legislative action? How would you act on it?
Sutherland: First we need to take the profit out of the homelessness crisis. Too many people are profiting from the crisis which creates a desire to keep the status quo, or worse, to make the crisis even worse. Homeless persons from other areas are being bussed in to our area to create a larger problem, thereby creating a greater opportunity to make a larger profit. By taking away the profit we can reduce homelessness.
Joens: COVID-19 has produced an additional 250,000 unemployed people in our state since last year, which puts more pressure on homelessness and food security. We need to make sure this problem does not get worse before it gets better. The best remedy is a strong economy that generates stable employment and a stable tax base. We need to make sure there are sufficient unemployment and medical insurance benefits to help Washingtonians stay on their feet.
Q) What do you believe the state will need to do to be more fiscally stable? How do public taxes come into play with your vision for government stability?
Sutherland: The amount of taxes taken from Washingtonians has doubled over the past 10 years, from $13 Billion/year to $26 Billion/year. We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem. The simplest solution might be to elect more fiscally responsible Republicans into office. Democrats have proven their inability to be fiscally responsible. Their solution to almost everything is to tax more and spend more, regardless of the outcome. This is both reckless and irresponsible. We need to prioritize the State budget from the top down, making sure we fund our top priorities first, like education, public safety, roads, etc. and then we can discuss lesser priorities should the need arise.
Joens: A stable economy requires a stable tax base. Local reliance on a few large corporations is not a good long term strategy because they can instantly move significant production out of state or make layoffs instead of using existing resources. Small to medium size companies generally create more jobs than large corporations, so we need to create a tax structure beneficial for them that does not result in lower wages for the people who work in these expanding businesses. A more progressive tax structure would improve stability. Those who have more should expect to pay more. I support a capital gains tax and increasing non-farm estate taxes.
Q) Your campaign discusses more affordable housing. What future legislation would you advocate for toward this goal?
Sutherland: Skyrocketing property taxes are adding to the housing affordability problem. I have a Bill that will eliminate State level property taxes (about a third of total property taxes) over four years. Also, there are too few single-family housing units available. Limiting the availability of housing units drives up prices. By increasing the number of housing units this will ease the pressure on the cost of housing.
Joens: Affordable housing solutions require both money and manpower. Senator Bob Hasegawa sponsored a state public bank that solves many of the money issues surrounding funding for affordable housing. This needs to pass our legislature. I intend to sponsor this legislation in the House. We should also work to create new programs that support high school skilled trades apprenticeships to fill the 500,000 skilled trade shortage in our country.
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