Meet more candidates: Skip Priest for District 30 state representative
October 17, 2008 · Updated 10:56 AM
(EDITOR'S NOTE: In an effort to educate the public before the Nov. 4 election, The Mirror is giving candidates an opportunity to answer six questions regarding important issues facing Federal Way and Washington state. Each of the candidates for District 30 state representative — Skip Priest vs. Carol Gregory; Michael Thompson vs. Mark Miloscia — have received this questionnaire.)
1. What are your qualifications for the state representative position?
First and foremost, I continue to care very deeply about the people of the 30th District. For almost 20 years, I have had the privilege of working with many groups and individuals in the communities I serve to improve our residents' quality of life. I continually work hard to understand not only the needs, but also the dreams and aspirations of those I represent. This commitment to all the residents of the 30th District — not just a few — is exemplified by my public and community service. Second, we need experienced leaders in the Legislature able to work across party lines to effectively address our state's ongoing challenges. Six years ago, I addressed the state's then-largest deficit without raising taxes while protecting our most vulnerable citizens. Today, this bipartisan approach is again necessary as we face an even larger budget crisis. I'm also proud of the leadership I've provided on issues critical to our district including education, the environment and the creation of family wage jobs. My efforts have been recognized by Municipal League "Outstanding" ratings in 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2008; a League of Education Voters "Education Champion" award; and "Environmental Champion" awards by the Washington Conservation Voters.
2. What measures should be implemented to lower the cost of doing business in Federal Way?
Many of us have worked hard to create a favorable business climate in Federal Way. This has included support for our schools, environment and public safety. It is the state's responsibility to develop thoughtful approaches on how to control the costs that are impacting both small and large businesses. This means bringing unemployment and workmen's compensation costs into line with other states (we have some of the highest in the nation), improving our approach to the current regressive business and occupation (B&O) taxes on business and working on containing costs of health care. As a member of the Boeing Task Force, we addressed many of these issues, not just for the aerospace industry, but for business in general. More needs to be done. Also, the Life Sciences Discovery Fund, of which I am a trustee, is investing in numerous programs designed to reduce health care costs for both businesses and individuals. Finally, we have to do more to reduce government red tape and requirements on small business and make it more user friendly. We have excellent state employees. But often they are overwhelmed by unending demands from the governor and the Legislature. Not surprisingly, our small business owners are overwhelmed as well.
3. Should the state play a role in improving financial management skills in Washington's citizens?
The Washington State Department of Financial Institutions is tasked to provide financial literacy and financial management. It has a very expansive Web site providing information to Washington residents on a number of topics including homeownership security. Over the long term, I believe that the state's primary responsibility should and must be to improve our students' personal financial literacy rather than duplicate much of the adult education work being done by the federal government in this area. This year, the Legislature considered legislation that would have sent an additional $1.5 million to the Department of Financial Institutions to "expand financial literacy." Its hoped-for outcomes were not clear. In response, I proposed by amendment that the money be directed to the existing Financial Literacy Public-Private Partnership — a program designed to provide students the knowledge they need to make critical decisions regarding their finances. In addition to improving the state's school financial literacy materials, it would also have provided support for partnerships such as the long-time association between the Federal Way School District and Woodstone Credit Union. Unfortunately, this effort was unsuccessful.
4. What are some reasonable solutions to improving the quality of education in Federal Way and Washington state?
The challenges of the Federal Way School District reflect challenges faced by other school districts in our state. Since 2001, our percentage of free and reduced lunch eligible students has increased from 20 percent to almost 50 percent. In addition, students in the district speak over 100 languages. Funding from the state has been inequitable and inadequate and has placed an undue burden on local property taxpayers. In response to this crisis and the Federal Way School District lawsuit, the Legislature established the select Basic Education Finance Task Force. As a task force member, I am working with my colleagues to review the state's definition of basic education and develop a plan to meet our state's constitutional responsibility to provide "ample" and "uniform" funding for our schools. Last week, the task force legislators, including myself, presented a proposal to meet our constitutional mandate. It calls for an improved approach to teacher compensation, the development of effective teacher training programs, additional resources to districts with large populations of disadvantaged students, and improved student and district accountability measures. It also calls, once and for all, for an end to the inequitable funding our district has had to suffer. See www.leg.wa.gov/joint/committees/bef/.
5. What are your thoughts on Washington state's Working Family Tax Exemption, which involves tax rebates for eligible families?
I think the intent of the legislation is very good. I have long been a supporter of the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit, which provides tax rebates to families earning relatively low wages. I have two concerns shared by many on both sides of the aisle: 1) The states that have attempted to do this type of rebate have all had income taxes which have made it relatively easy to administer. The proposal passed by the Legislature is based on a sales tax rebate, which will result in the creation of a very large new bureaucracy and will be very difficult to implement; 2) Under the proposal, no funding is provided until at least the end of 2009 and, even then, there is no commitment from the Legislature. The proposal seems at worst an empty promise and at best an extremely complicated and inefficient way to provide assistance to those who need our help the most.
6. How closely do you match up with your political party's established positions and values?
In Olympia, the House Republicans come from many different parts of the state and have fairly divergent views and philosophies. We all agree, however, that: 1) We must "fund education first" because it is the state's paramount duty; 2) We must protect taxpayer dollars and address our current budget crisis by using a "priorities of government" approach to budgeting; and 3) that we must continually seek ways to improve our business climate to ensure that we create sufficient family wage jobs and revenues to pay for the state's needs. It is in the area of protecting the environment that I am probably more proactive than other caucus members. Over the last six years, I have been pleased to take a leadership role on a number of major environmental priorities including controlling PBDEs, managing electronic waste, climate control and local farms/healthy kids legislation. As a result, the independent Washington Conservation Voters has named me an "Environmental Champion" the last two sessions.
To learn more about Skip Priest, who seeks re-election as a Republican for District 30 state representative, visit www.skippriest.com.