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Tharinger, Greisamer debate at Sequim forum

Posted 8/18/2014

Tharinger, Greisamer debateCandidates for State Legislator debated at a forum held Sunday, August 17 at the Sequim Senior Center sponsored by the League of Women Voters (LWV).

There were approximately 50 people present to listen to Home Rule Charter District 1 candidates introduce themselves, and hear Dr. Tom Greisamer and incumbent Steve Tharinger debate the issues.

In a nutshell, Tharinger favors more taxes to cover an ever-rising budget at the state level, while Greisamer believes there is enough money already, and commonsense adjustments need to be made, especially in the bureaucracies.

Education, Mental Health and Taxes:

Tharinger said there is a $32 billion budget currently, and with the State Supreme Court McCleary decision covering education funding, an additional $2 billion will be needed. There are additional costs that need to be funded as well, he said, including mental health services, involving another $500 million.

Tharinger said he hopes the federal law under consideration, known as the “Main Street Fairness Act”, passes. It would require sales tax to be collected on all internet sales. The State would receive approximately $450 million.

Greisamer queried, “Have you ever met a government agency that doesn’t need more money?” He said state legislatures need to use common sense in how current funds are being spent.

Tharinger retorted that there is a “new myth”, that people can get “something for nothing”. With costs for higher education, transportation, schools, “society is more complicated”, he said.

Question from LWV: How would you prioritize transportation needs?

Tharinger responded that needs include schools, hospitals, and community structures. He said there has been no transportation budget for two years. He said we have benefitted from the “greatest generation”. Now public structures are becoming obsolete, and we can’t get goods from eastern Washington to the Western Washington ports, he said.

Greisamer agreed that we need to take care of transportation needs. He said he hears from people that they don’t trust the state’s spending. “If spending is done wisely,” he said, “that could change.” He said he’s been told that cutting back on road transportation is for the purpose of “encouraging” people to ride bikes”.

Tharinger said that’s a different issue, and that he favors “intermodal” transportation (buses, bikes, etc.). Here, we needed the widening of Highway 101, which was funded by a 5 cent package a year or so ago. He said the “tea party people” buy into the “new myth”.

Questions from the Audience:

Dick Pilling: How much should be spent per student?

Greisamer said we currently spend an average of $11,400 per student in Washington state – K through 12. He said college costs the same amount. He would work to increase teachers’ and teacher’s aides’ pay by reducing some of the upper management’s salaries. It’s top-heavy, he said. He would also work to encourage parents’ involvement in their children’s’ education.

Tharinger responded that Washington is $800 per student behind Alabama. We need to increase the amount of funding, he said.

Florence: What are the 3 most critical issues?

Tharinger said the budget is where priorities are situated. He said “education, health and human services” and “economic ‘investments’”, like transportation were high priorities.

Greisamer said accountability in government was a top issue. Commissions and agencies are currently running on “autopilot”, and have lost touch with the workers and the citizens whom they are supposed to serve. He thinks perhaps a full-time legislature would help to solve the problem, for more oversight and accountability by the elected representatives.

Tharinger said he’s “never run into anyone who would want him full time.” He added, “You’re getting a deal!”

Greisamer said he is not running to make it a career. If elected, he would serve two terms maximum.

Carol Hall (LWV) asked if we have a choice, because of the Supreme Court ruling, about increasing educational funding?

Greisamer said that the Washington State Constitution calls for “adequate” education. The State has borrowed $1 billion for the budget, for a total of up to $20 billion. We can find better ways to allocate existing funds, he said.

Tharinger said there is some “debate” about the funding.

Greisamer stated that every time a problem comes up, the answer is to is the “throw more money at it”. We are individuals and have responsibility as individuals, he said.

Tharinger said “the sense of ‘individualism’ is a myth. We’ve been stronger when we’ve come together, he said, referring to government’s involvement in citizen’s lives. We need to debunk the myth of ‘fending for yourself’ and deal with the reality.

Jerry Sinn asked why we need more money when we have sufficient. He said the Washington State Constitution calls for an “ample” education. He added that New Jersey has the highest cost per student in the nation, and is 38th in educational results.

Greisamer said the state spend $105 million every day. “Where does it go”? The state agencies justify all kinds of programs, not all necessary. He talked about his experience in the military, where there were programs being funded that didn’t even have patients. Taxpayers’ money is being spent on “eyewash,”, “studies”, he said.

He responded to Tharinger’s remarks about “coming together”. A football team, for example, is made up of individuals who are each responsible for their own conduct, but play as a team. Communities can do the same. Government is not necessary to play that role in every instance.

Tharinger talked about where additional funding for the budget could come from, including a capital gains tax, and lobbyists who don’t pay sales tax or B&O tax. Look at services that “don’t pay their fair share,” he said.

Question: What is the #1 purpose of government?

Greisamer responded that government’s purpose is to do those things that people can’t do for themselves. The government healthcare now mandated by the government, on the other hand, is telling us what to eat, how to live. We are losing our individual freedoms, he said.

Tharinger agreed about government’s role. Government is a place where “democracy meets the marketplace”, he said.

Greisamer said that we need basic regulations that don’t strangle businesses. He used the myriads of new regulations covering nursing homes as an example.

Tharinger said he is on the disabilities committee. With state Medicaid, the State is under a huge liability, and regulations are needed, he said.

Question: Would you support a State income tax?

Tharinger. Yes.

Greisamer: No. It’s like putting the camel’s nose under the tent. There is enough money in the state budget if it is handled correctly.

Tharinger said we need “fairness and equality”. “Washington has the most regressive tax in the country,” he said. “There is little correlation between taxation and the economy.” That’s another myth, he said – that high taxes relate to a worse business climate.

Greisamer said that the States with a “right-to-work” and no income taxes are the ones that are doing the best. Companies are moving overseas. Another, indirect, tax is the cost of ecology studies and regulations; it slows down the economy.

Question: Where do you stand on the pit-to-pier in the Hood Canal?

Greisamer said it’s the “Keystone Pipeline” for this area. He is in favor of it. Environmentalists want everything left in the ground, he said. This is gravel. It would be 100 jobs, over 100 years. He has heard that currently, gravel is being imported from Canada.

Tharinger said he is opposed. It’s not a matter of “if” but “when” a barge might run into the bridge. The Navy is opposed to it because of the perceived impact on the waterway. Gravel could be shipped by truck, he said.

Greisamer responded that barges have been up and down the Mississippi River for years. He favors the same here if it can be done safely.

Tharinger said he might change his mind about the issue if the Navy did.

Question: Jerry Sinn asked about each candidate’s stand on Common Core.

Tharinger said he supports some sort of standard. He doesn’t know if Common Core is the one, as it is being attacked by the Right and the Left, with the idea of the heavy hand of federal government. He talked about other changes in curriculum, with the additional requirement of credits for graduation, and the loss of the arts, physical education, that he does not favor.

Greisamer said that communities should have local control. Common Core comes from the top (federal government) down. Bring it back to the community and let the teachers teach, he said. Don’t lower the criteria just so everyone is passing. He cited that the Department of Defense has overseas schools which are doing much better; parents have to answer for their children’s’ behavior there. He also favors year-round school.

Question: What are 2-3 items you’d work on specific to our district?

Greisamer said he would work on keeping jobs and allowing businesses to thrive. Make building permits easier to obtain. Rein in ORCA (Regional Clean Air), which is described as an “ecology gestapo”.

Tharinger said aging and disabilities issues. He said he thinks there needs to be higher pay for long-term care workers, since there is currently a high turnover. He said the government’s task force for outdoor recreation is another area. The budget was cut for State parks, and he is looking for ways to fund them.

Greisamer said the state parks issue reminds him of sequester, where the government closes the areas that are most visible instead of getting rid of highly paid bureaucrats and cutting other wasteful spending. For instance, he said L&I (workman’s compensation) pays big settlements and don’t even investigate the claims beforehand.

Question: What about getting rid of retardants in furniture and the GMO issue?

Tharinger said there are public health bills coming up to cover the retardant issue. So far, no bills have come forth about GMO – only an initiative. He supports consumer awareness about what is in our food.

Greisamer said that if there are carcinogens in retardants, they should not be used. The GMO issue, however, is a myth, he said. Studies have been done worldwide about GMOs, and no harm to humans has been found.

Tharinger said the science is pretty solid. We need to face our decisions on reality.

Greisamer responded that the GMO issue has been studied, and scientifically found to cause no harm. More people are getting more food and starving less worldwide because of GMOs, he said.

Dick Pilling asked about whether they supported school vouchers and school choice, explaining that in the Netherlands, the dollars follow the students, and their families can choose which school to attend, which works very well.

Greisamer said we already have a few school choice programs, and he said that school systems should compete for the student, a healthy thing.

Tharinger said that “diversity” comes together in the school system, and that public education fundamentals are important. He is “not convinced” that vouchers are a good idea.

Greisamer said charter schools work. Part of the current problem, he said, is control at home or in the classroom.

Tharinger said we need to be “careful to carve out different groups”. If smart students leave the public school, that leaves a vacuum, he said. He is in favor of the public education system.

Closing Statements:

Greisamer said he believes government is too big a part of our lives.

Tharinger cited his experience in government.


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