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Priority decisions for fixing Washington: Q&A with 5th Dist. State Senate hopefuls Brad Toft, Mark Mullet
In the running for Washington’s Fifth District Senate seat, Brad Toft (R-Snoqualmie) and Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, are vying to replace Cheryl Pflug, a Republican named to the Growth Management Hearings Board this past summer by Gov. Chris Gregoire.
Toft, a financial services specialist and local Rotarian, and Mullet, owner of Zeek’s Pizza and Ben and Jerry’s in Issaquah and an Issaquah City Councilmember, shared their view on prioritization, social issues and state solutions.
How would you get the state’s economy humming?
For the past decade, we have suffered from a state legislature that has scattered in all directions without focusing on the unemployment problem in Washington state. We need to foster growth among small businesses, where more than 80 percent of jobs are created. First, the state needs a moratorium on new regulations and restrictions for small businesses. Second, we need to eliminate the B&O tax on small businesses with gross revenue under $500,000. Third, we should consolidate the Ports of Seattle, Tacoma and Everett, powerful economic engines. They spend millions competing against one another while not being competitive against other West Coast ports. Last, we need to reform the state L&I and unemployment systems. We have high unemployment rates among teenagers and concurrently have the highest minimum wage in the country, plus high L&I and unemployment rates. Without reform, Washington will stay stuck in neutral.
How can the state better fund education and health care?
Using the “Priorities of Government” model, the state can fund K-12 education with the very first dollars – offering support to basic education.
As for state funded healthcare, it’s time to change to a system that pays for value and results over mere volume. The state should pay doctors and hospitals for improving health, reducing illness and avoiding unnecessary utilization. That requires paying healthcare professionals through investment in “care management” that works with patients.
As a legislator, what stance would you take on social issues such as same-sex marriage and the legalization of marijuana?
Each social issue has a unique set of questions and complications. While I can see some benefit of reviewing in depth our drug laws, permitting the sale and use of marijuana would put Washington state at odds with the federal government that still prohibits marijuana and other recreational substances. Approval here would make it difficult for law enforcement agencies to regulate drugs and would send mixed messages to the populace on what constitutes legal and illegal commerce, trafficking, possession, and use of drugs.
Civil unions were approved by the state several years ago. From my point of view, there is nothing in the current initiative that would improve the scope of the existing legislation. While I personally believe that marriage is only between a man and a woman, I agree the current civil union legislation addresses the vast spectrum of civil rights that same-sex couples seek.
When do you think it’s appropriate to cross party lines?
They say that politics is the art of compromise. In fact, my efforts to run for this state Senate seat put me into conflict with my party. I demonstrated a strong challenge to Sen. Cheryl Pflug, who unexpectedly resigned to take a position with the Growth Management Act Hearings Board. My challenger, Mark Mullet, is now attempting to be the direct beneficiary of a back room deal that shows contempt for voters and distrust of our democratic process. Democrats and Republicans alike are seeking the truth in this unfolding, alleged bribery scandal that knows no party lines. To answer the question, yes, it is always appropriate to do the right thing.
What would your no. 1 priority be as a legislator?
To invigorate our business sector, we need to make small businesses and entrepreneurs the stakeholders in growth — rather than relying on debt-financed stimulus programs. Such moves require the legislature to change its views on taxes and regulations as a way to manage the private sector. Reducing Washington’s actual unemployment rate of 17.4 percent is the key.
If elected, what would you do to get Washington’s economy humming again?
We need to make sure that government is facilitating both small and large businesses so they can be successful in our state. One item that would make it easier for people to do business here would be a simplified collection of the Business & Occupation tax. The state should find a way to collect the B&O tax for cities when they collect the sales tax each month. Right now, every employer has to file a monthly sales tax form with the state, and a quarterly form with their city.
How can we get education and health care funding back on track?
We should make every attempt to limit the massive growth of health care costs for our state employees. I would love to implement the Healthy Incentives model from King County at the state level. This is our best chance to save hundreds of millions of dollars. We should put every dollar of savings from this program into our public schools.
I support the federal Medicaid expansion to provide more access to healthcare in Washington.
What stance would you take on social issues such as same-sex marriage and the legalization of marijuana?
I support same-sex marriage. I view it as a civil rights issue.
My personal support for marijuana has always been for medical marijuana. I have fought to make sure this is available to our residents in Issaquah while on the City Council. I will be supporting Initiative 502 because I think it sends a strong message to the federal government that our current system is broken and needs new ideas.
When do you think it’s appropriate to cross party lines?
Every single day you are in office. The second you put a political party ahead of what is best for the residents of your local communities then you have failed in your leadership role.
(Regarding the Pflug appointment), there is no conspiracy theory. I found out about Cheryl Pflug being appointed to the Growth Management Hearings Board on May 21, the same day as the rest of the world. I have a spotless record of integrity and honesty. You can ask every one of my 45 employees at Zeeks Pizza and Ben and Jerry’s, you can ask every member of the Issaquah City Council, and every member of the community who has dealt with me through my position on the Board for the Issaquah Food and Clothing Bank.
What would your number one priority be as a legislator?
Creating jobs by making Washington state a better place to do business. I have always agreed with the Democratic party on the social issues. I will be the first to admit that the Democratic party has room for improvement in dealing with the business community. My business background as the owner of Zeek’s Pizza and Ben and Jerry’s will help the Democratic party do a better job of understanding these issues.