County representative candidates debate sex education, climate change policies

Incumbent says property tax increase is unnecessary because of community growth; challenger says he does not care for property taxes



Republican incumbent Mary Dye and Libertarian challenger Brett Borden debated during a virtual forum Saturday afternoon.


Republican incumbent Mary Dye and Libertarian challenger Brett Borden debated tax increases and Referendum 90, which requires schools to teach comprehensive sex education, during a virtual forum Saturday afternoon.

The League of Women Voters of Pullman hosted the event. Both Dye and Borden are challenging for the ninth district representative seat. 

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Dye, who is currently the district’s representative, said she is in favor of increasing state funding for Washington’s public universities. 

“The continually increasing tuition limits people’s access to get education,” she said. “To allow those price points to continually rise above what people in the community can afford is wrong, and we need to bring cost discipline to university education.” 

Borden said the high costs cover the underlying problem that leads to higher costs.  

“The university system has almost become like one of these too-big-to-fail institutions,” he said. 

Whitman and other Washington counties can only increase property taxes by one percent a year. County expenses increase by about three or four percent per year, moderator Karyn Hardy said. 

Dye said there will be population growth in eastern Washington communities, so the rise of property taxes should reflect that growth in a balanced way.  

“I think that we will have the opportunity to increase our tax base simply by the fact that we’re going to be experiencing growth in the future,” she said. “That comes with a cost to the county.”

Borden said he does not care for property taxes because even people who own their house have to pay yearly, as if they are renting it from the government. 

“I think increasing property taxes brings a lot of societal ills to a greater extent,” he said. 


Dye said Referendum 90, Sex Education in Public Schools Measure 2020, listens to parent concerns. 

The referendum would require all public schools to teach comprehensive sex education to all students, unless an excuse is requested by a student’s parent, according to the referendum. 

“It means that we are impacting people’s cultural sensitivities in a way,” Dye said. “We’re making a policy decision that overrides some deeply held values that parents have about acculturating their children.”

Borden said parents should remain in a position to raise their children however they please. The opt-out option of Referendum 90 is important for protecting parent rights, he said. 

It is important that children have some foundation on this subject, particularly in middle and high school, he said. 

“I’m indifferent,” Borden said. 


Dye said Washington state should be careful about the climate change policies it chooses to mitigate and respond to. 

Passing some climate change policies will threaten the free market’s ability to sustain itself because the policies will impact the energy economy, she said. 

“We seem to have a radical departure of opinion on how to solve those problems,” she said. 

Borden said the governor discusses this topic often. The fires Whitman County experienced is an example of a climate change problem, so having a conversation about this is critical, he said.  

The response Washington has to climate change “tends to be kind of overkill” unless it has a clear purpose in being introduced in the legislature, Borden said.