Q&A with John Koster and Suzan DelBene

One of the hottest contests this election season is between Republican John Koster and Democrat Suzan DelBene for the open seat in the 1st Congressional District.

As part of our coverage, we posed a handful of questions to the candidates and plan to run their responses throughout the remaining weeks of the campaign. Previously:

Question 1: What one bill would you introduce?

Question 2: Who most influenced your political and economic beliefs?

Today’s question: As a member of Congress, there will be a tension between bringing back federal money for worthwhile projects in the 1st District while also addressing the growing federal deficit. How do you balance, say, replacing an aging bridge or fixing U.S. 2 – which both might need federal money – while still lessening the debt load for the entire country?

Suzan DelBene

Transportation infrastructure is crucial to our economy and we must invest in it as part of an overall effort to build a strong foundation for economic growth. In Snohomish County, repairing our aging roads and bridges is absolutely critical if we are going to be able to move freight and people efficiently and safely.

It’s important to remember that repairing our infrastructure today will save us money in the long term. At the same time, we need to ensure that our investments are targeted. We should expect, and get, a strong return on the investments of our public tax dollars.

As we address comprehensive reform of our tax code and address our budget deficits, I would look to closing existing tax loopholes and subsidies that don’t make sense today. It’s simple: any time our federal government offers a tax break or subsidy, we should consider it as a budgetary expenditure. I believe that we must evaluate these expenditures regularly and then eliminate those that are no longer giving us an adequate return. Over time, that will increase efficiency and generate significant new revenues that can be invested in other areas or used for deficit reduction. In addition, I believe we should let the Bush tax cuts for high wage earners expire, which would help reduce the deficit and provide revenues that could be used to support our aging infrastructure.

John Koster

As an elected official in both the State Legislature and presently as a Snohomish County Councilman, I always sided with lessening regulation and spending that curbed freedom or failed to provide value, and on the other hand supported those which propped up our community’s financial growth.

The principal reason for my run for Congress is to address and fix the daunting challenges faced by our nation and our citizens. The debt is swallowing up our fiscal future. But if we grow our economy, then a multitude of problems can be corrected.

I believe government regulation and spending more often than not dampens growth. Still, government can play a role in some situations. One area in particular falls within transportation, infrastructure and building of roadways. In my responsibilities as a Snohomish County Councilmember and as a State Representative, I studied budgets and reviewed policy carefully to determine best practices and best use before mandating the extraction and use of our citizens’ limited tax dollars.

Should I reach the level of federal office, my due diligence in that regard will remain consistent.

I believe the construction of highways and infrastructure is an economic and jobs issue. If dollars are directed wisely and particular policy implemented more intelligently, then tax revenue for infrastructure can augment commerce and spur economy growth — instead of the often seen outcome of money drained from the national treasury.

Congress approved a Transportation Reform Bill in June that fulfills my criteria to wisely spend the peoples’ money.

The legislation, which was signed into law on July 6, 2012 (covering federal transportation needs for the next 2 1/4-years), ensures that states can carry out important infrastructure projects and guarantee long-term jobs in the hard-hit construction industry.

During the stimulus debacle, ‘shovel-ready’ became a national joke because it takes so long to get the bureaucratic approvals for a project. Program reforms included in the bill will allow projects to move forward more efficiently and according to local priorities – not according to federal mandates.

The bill included the most comprehensive transportation program reforms since the establishment of the Interstate System under President Eisenhower. This measure included historic reform to cut red tape, and included the following overdue improvements:

• Streamlined the bureaucratic project approval process (note: previously the delivery process was taking up to 15 years from planning through construction)

• Consolidated or eliminated nearly 2/3 of federal programs

• Ensured that states have more flexibility to direct limited resources to high-priority needs

• The previous transportation law contained over 6,300 earmarks, but the new transportation measure contains no earmarks

In addition, the Congressional Budget Office scored the bill with saving of some $16.3 billion over the next decade.

As I know firsthand from serving in Olympia and on the Snohomish County Council, construction costs escalate with time. The bill seeks to lower project costs by avoiding the fee increases brought about by lengthy delays.

Passage of this key legislation was delayed nearly three years, during which time Democrats who controlled both Houses of Congress and the White House, failed to pass a long-term bill to set the nation’s transportation policy

Notwithstanding that hindrance, this legislation represents my philosophy in a balance between addressing the need for federal money while making an investment in the nation’s infrastructure.

That investment translates into safer travel, more efficient commerce, and the creation of thousands of jobs.

With signing of the bill, Washington State is expected to receive some $655 million.

In Article One, Section Eight of our U.S. Constitution, Congress specifically authorizes power to establish (build) post roads. James Madison in the Federalist Papers #42, paragraph 20, stated,

“The power of establishing post roads must, in every view, be a harmless power, and may, perhaps, by judicious management, become productive of great public conveniency. Nothing which tends to facilitate the intercourse between the States can be deemed unworthy of the public care.”

For those of us who believe in constitutional conservatism, we know that the Federal Government wastes unconscionable amounts of money on projects that bring little tangible value.

We understand that, unlike many things in which the Federal Government wastes amounts of our money, transportation spending however constitutes a legitimate expenditure.

All things being equal, lesser government regulation and government spending, must be replaced with smarter, streamlined sets of rules in order to free up our people’s entrepreneurial spirit, and generate an atmosphere for private industry to grow and thrive.

As the people’s representative in Congress, I will remain cognizant every day holding to the charge of balancing the nation’s financial ship, enacting wiser, smarter policies, while still funding worthy and critical programs.

Spending federal tax dollars towards transportation projects, road construction and infrastructure, helps further commerce, create jobs, aid in economic growth and as such, falls within my belief in the proper role of government and use of federal tax dollars.

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