Incumbent Mary Dye, R-Pomeroy, and challenger Jenn Goulet, D-Pasco, faced questions from voters during a League of Women Voters of Pullman forum at the Neill Public Library last week. The two will move on to the general election in November as the only two in the running for Washington State’s 9th Legislative District Position 1.
Dye said she was proud of the decisions that lawmakers have made in the past in funding public schools in Washington, although she questioned the McCleary court decision which forced the legislature to dedicate more money to education.
“These things become a real challenge and I’m proud the legislature could come to a decision,” Dye said.
She said part of her questioning of the McCleary decision comes down to the funding for education taking away money that would have went to the state’s “rainy day fund.”
Goulet said one of her goals would be to raise wages for teachers to help them better focus on their jobs educating children.
“Teachers have told me that cost of living adjustments still aren’t enough for the total cost of living,” she said.
Goulet also said she wants to put more trust in teachers and move away from standardized state testing.
As for school safety in the wake of multiple shootings on campuses across the nation during the previous school year, Dye said students need more access to counselors.
She said the need for counselors was made apparent during visits with students in the district who asked for more such resources and she wants to continue searching for ways to help troubled students.
“I’m going to search for those types of meaningful answers,” Dye said.
Goulet echoed the same sentiment in regard to counselors.
“We really need to have more school counselors,” she said. “Oftentimes, there was only one all day in my kid’s schools.”
Goulet said children often find it difficult to access mental health resources and education on bullying prevention and violence warning signs need to be more prevalent. She also said she would explore the possibility of additional regulations on firearm ownership in the state.
Goulet said the healthcare system in Washington is in an “imperfect spot.” She said she wants to see the state move toward a single-payer healthcare-for-all system and hopes the federal system will also follow suit.
Dye said she sees the state’s current system as a hybrid that has been over-burdened by regulations from lawmakers. She also said she thinks their need to be more providers offered to citizens, so they have a better choice for care.
As for mental health, Goulet said the system faces “big, complex problems.” She said the state faces a shortage of mental health professionals who need more training options and incentives to become properly trained.
Dye said one way to improve the system would be to allow families to have more power in admitting relatives to care facilities.
“We have to let families have more say when they see their children having troubles,” Dye said.
She cited her own experiences with family members suffering from mental illnesses for her views on mental healthcare.
Business and Economy
Dye said the legislature needs to be more prudent in their budgetary decisions.
“It’s easy for the legislature to get compliant … about their budget,” Dye said.
She said they need to be more thoughtful when it comes to the creation of government jobs, as they require taxpayer funding for salaries. Instead, she would like to see more of a focus on job creation in the private sector across the state.
Meanwhile, Goulet said she wants to reform the state’s business and occupation tax as well as looking at more options for a capital gains tax. She also wants to reform tax codes to close loopholes for corporations.
She also said she is “pro-business, pro-capitalism.” However, she wants to take a stand against corruption in business.
Many questions regarding environmental issues were posed to the candidates, including the effects of climate change.
Dye said she would oppose any form of carbon tax proposed in the legislature.
“This is a tax on our energy and I don’t think it’s right,” Dye said.
She also said regulations would harm farmers and increase energy costs for families in the district.
“It takes wealth to protect the environment,” Dye said.
On the other hand, Goulet said she believes climate change is “undeniably caused by human activity,” and that if nothing is done to combat these changes, people with low income will be hurt the most by things such as rising water levels and prolonged droughts.
She also said she is in favor of a carbon tax on businesses and that not taking action leaves citizens vulnerable.
Another question regarding natural resources in the district concerned dams on the Snake River. Dye said the structures are of great importance.
“Our dams are critical infrastructure,” Dye said.
She said she would continue to fight to protect the dams from being removed or otherwise bypassed. Dye also said people often overlook how much money the state has invested in fish remediation at the dams.
Goulet said she also supports dams and the work in hydropower done at their locations.
“With all the information I have, I am not in favor of taking them down,” she said.
She also said it would take a lot of solid evidence to change her decision on the matter.
State parks were also a topic of discussion among the candidates, with questions about funding for the preserved areas being fielded by the group.
Goulet said the state should focus on the already established parks before looking to procure more land.
“I would like to see us be able to take care of our existing parks,” she said.
She also said it would be a great value to the region if Eastern Washington developed more trails in nature areas, as it would bring in tourists and those seeking recreation.
Dye also said the state should look to maintain existing parks as its first priority when it comes to the sites.
“We have a lot of beautiful parks that could use some attention,” Dye said.
She cited Palouse Falls as one example of an area that needs attention and state resources to keep safe and properly maintained.
“We have to take care of what we have and treat it right before we look to get anything new,” Dye said.
As for the issue of rail banking, or the procurement of private land for future use for public rails or trails, Goulet said she was not well-educated on the topic in the region but she would support the idea if it helped the surrounding areas.
“I want to support the development of trails and recreational areas,” Goulet said.
However, she said the proper processes should be adhered to in using private land for public programs.
Dye said there are winners and losers no matter what decision is made, but that the state needs to adhere to existing contracts regarding property rights.
“We need to find a way to respect the fundamentals of our country,” Dye said when it came to the contracts.
She also said the public’s interest in the lands should not override private agreements and ownership.
“You can’t have a public good by taking something that was once a private covenant,” she said.