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House hopefuls talk budget, quality of life

The two men vying for the 5th Legislative District’s Position 1 seat in the state House of Representatives share common experiences as U.S. Marines, but would approach the office in very different ways. Democrat Jon Viebrock is challenging Republican incumbent Jay Rodne to represent the district, which encompasses the Sammamish Plateau, Issaquah, Snoqualmie Valley and Maple Valley.

The candidates discussed their ideas for grappling with a $3 billion-plus state budget deficit while improving the quality of life in the district.

Jay Rodne

Rodne, a four-year veteran of the Legislature, said that though it can be challenging to contend with a Democratic majority, he has been able to reach across the aisle to pass important laws.

An avid angler, Viebrock is concerned about protecting the environment, but said doing so “doesn’t mean that you have to be some sort of an activist.”

The state should encourage more extensive recycling programs, discourage the use of petroleum-based fertilizers, and incentivize the development of carbon-free energy, he said.

“The state government needs to find a way to get builders to start installing solar packages as a standard feature on houses,” he said.

After a few years, “we could create enough power that would lighten the load on public utilities” and decentralize the power grid, decreasing susceptibility to power failures.

Viebrock said there is a statewide crisis in school construction funding that is particularly noticeable in the Snoqualmie Valley, where voters have three times rejected bonds to build a second comprehensive high school.

“Funding for education is the paramount duty of the state,” he said. “’Paramount’ would imply that more than 50 percent of state budget had to go for education. In today’s world, I’m not sure that’s realistic, but if you looked at a pie chart of the state budget, the dominant feature on that pie chart should be education.”

He is also focused on transportation issues.

“People should be able to get to work without spending an hour and a half in traffic,” he said.

Because he doesn’t think the light rail will reach the Snoqualmie Valley anytime soon, he wants to see a high-speed bus system to connect the area to Seattle.

“If you could get from park and ride on the Ridge to Seattle in 45 minutes, I think a lot of people would do it,” he said. “In the short term, buses are going to have to be the answer.”

He opposes replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a tunnel, saying that “spending all that money in one spot denies breaking up all that money and spending it throughout the state.”

To spur economic development in the district, Viebrock said the area should develop a fishing tourism industry by adapting a Canadian model of catch-and-release fishing.

He also wants to attract high-tech businesses and light manufacturing companies to the Valley.

“We should stay away from things that are heavy polluters,” he said. “Picking and choosing which application gets approved — that’s going to be important for maintaining the quality of life.”He pointed to his work on sex offender legislation, a measure to protect homeowners at risk of losing their homes through foreclosure, and a law to create transparency in non-profit charitable organizations.

He’s disappointed by the majority’s budgeting process, however, and said his top priority is balancing the budget in a fiscally responsible way.

“We’ve got a spending problem, and our rate of spending increases have been double digits the last four years,” he said. “We need to really look at trimming back some programs, going back to the focus of prioritizing our budget.

“We need to put our first dollars into investing in our future, and that’s through a sound education system,” he said.

Rodne advocated a measure called Education First that would redefine the concept of a basic education, then mandate that it be fully funded before other state funds can be allocated.

“Right now is one the first times in the history of our state when we’re spending more to remedy the impacts of our failure of investing in education, through corrections, through probation, through expanding DSHS (Department of Social and Health Services) caseloads,” he said.

Rodne also said the state should take some measures to help small businesses.

“Our B & O (business and occupation) tax is unfair; it penalizes small businesses, particularly new ones, because it taxes gross receipts, not income,” he said.

He also thinks small businesses should be allowed to provide health care plans tailored to their employees’ needs.

“Right now it’s unlawful for small businesses to offer anything but the large comprehensive plan that Boeing or Microsoft provides its employees. A lot of small businesses can’t afford that,” he said. “It’s ridiculous. If you’ve got a lawn service business that employs 10 to 12 young men, you don’t need maternity leave benefits.”

His Web site also states that the Legislature should consider “making adjustments to our minimum wage laws” to create and preserve jobs.

Another key issue in the upcoming session will be transportation.

“We are in this battle between roads versus transit, and I think that’s a false dichotomy. We need to have a multi-modal transportation system,” he said.

Such a system should incorporate bus rapid transit with its own dedicated right of way, vanpools, and incentives for businesses to find alternative transportation for employees.

He said the revenue from the gas tax won’t be enough to fund road projects, so the state must bridge the shortfall by pulling some auto-related sales tax revenue from the general budget, and also through public-private partnerships.

For example, tax-increment financing could provide revenue for replacing Seattle’s Alaskan Way Viaduct.

“We could take that land on top of the tunnel, and essentially capture all the sales tax, and retail tax, and commercial tax base that will be generated on that incredibly valuable piece of property, and bond it over 25 years. We could raise $2 billion to pay for that tunnel,” he said.

Rodne opposed pre-tolling a 520 bridge replacement and argued against “value pricing” that would place higher tolls during peak hours, but said he was overruled by the Democratic majority on those issues

Jon Viebrock

A 20-year member of the construction trades, Viebrock said he would bring his strong work ethic and fresh ideas to Olympia.

He’d also have the advantage of being part of the Democratic majority.

“Partisan politics does play a role in government, and with one-party representation, I think that it’s conceivable that the 5th District simply doesn’t have a seat at the table for a lot of decisions,” he said.

Viebrock said he’s concerned that Rodne would consider lowering the minimum wage.

“I’m a blue-collar guy. Adjusting minimum wage hurts people who are not even in my position — they’re trying to get to my position in the economic stratosphere,” the construction foreman said.

He’s also motivated to solve quality of life problems that he said have come along with rapid development in the 5th District.

“There needs to be development with an eye toward preserving what natural resources we have left and safeguarding them so we don’t have issues like pollutants in people’s drinking water,” he said, referring to the contamination of an aquifer in Issaquah from street runoff.

An avid angler, Viebrock is concerned about protecting the environment, but said doing so “doesn’t mean that you have to be some sort of an activist.”

The state should encourage more extensive recycling programs, discourage the use of petroleum-based fertilizers, and incentivize the development of carbon-free energy, he said.

“The state government needs to find a way to get builders to start installing solar packages as a standard feature on houses,” he said.

After a few years, “we could create enough power that would lighten the load on public utilities” and decentralize the power grid, decreasing susceptibility to power failures.

Viebrock said there is a statewide crisis in school construction funding that is particularly noticeable in the Snoqualmie Valley, where voters have three times rejected bonds to build a second comprehensive high school.

“Funding for education is the paramount duty of the state,” he said. “’Paramount’ would imply that more than 50 percent of state budget had to go for education. In today’s world, I’m not sure that’s realistic, but if you looked at a pie chart of the state budget, the dominant feature on that pie chart should be education.”

He is also focused on transportation issues.

“People should be able to get to work without spending an hour and a half in traffic,” he said.

Because he doesn’t think the light rail will reach the Snoqualmie Valley anytime soon, he wants to see a high-speed bus system to connect the area to Seattle.

“If you could get from park and ride on the Ridge to Seattle in 45 minutes, I think a lot of people would do it,” he said. “In the short term, buses are going to have to be the answer.”

He opposes replacing the Alaskan Way Viaduct with a tunnel, saying that “spending all that money in one spot denies breaking up all that money and spending it throughout the state.”

To spur economic development in the district, Viebrock said the area should develop a fishing tourism industry by adapting a Canadian model of catch-and-release fishing.

He also wants to attract high-tech businesses and light manufacturing companies to the Valley.

“We should stay away from things that are heavy polluters,” he said. “Picking and choosing which application gets approved — that’s going to be important for maintaining the quality of life.”

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