Taxes dominate issues for 32nd state Senate seat

Maralyn Chase, a long-time legislator, faces a challenge both within her Democrat party and from Republican Robert Reedy in the Aug. 5 primary race for the 32nd state Senate seat.

The three candidates outlined how they would approach two big issues facing the state: paying for transportation and fully funding public education, a step ordered by the state Supreme Court.

The top two finishers in the primary election will go on to the November general election ballot.

Chase said the last year’s collapse of the Skagit River bridge shows that the state’s infrastructure “is in desperate need for repairs or replacements.”

Chase said she thinks that the only way to fund major transportation improvements is with an increase in the gas tax. “I do believe that there are certain things that government must do,” she said. “The longer we delay the more expensive things get. It’s critical we fix the system.”

Chris Eggen, Chase’s Democratic opponent, said that he’s had a long-standing interest in transportation issues, including participation on several King County transportation committees. Eggen said he thought it would take an additional gas tax of about 10 cents a gallon to pay for transportation improvements. Eggen said he would support increasing the tax but thinks such a move should be put on the ballot for voters to decide.

Reedy said a combination of poor planning during times of growth, and a government philosophy of kicking problems down the road for others to figure out, have led to current transportation problems. “The freeway is overcrowded but how much more freeway can you build?” he asked.

Reedy said he thinks there’s money in the state’s transportation fund to make improvements. “You just have to spend it wisely,” he said. Reedy said he would not support an increase in the gas tax to pay for transportation improvements.

State lawmakers are under increasing pressure to take action on funding public education. In 2012, the state Supreme Court ruled that the state had failed to meet its constitutional duty to pay the full cost of a basic education for the roughly 1 million students in public elementary and secondary schools. The court gave lawmakers until the 2017-18 school year to comply and told legislators to come up with a timeline for funding the improvements, but lawmakers have been unable to do so.

Chase said the larger issue is the state needs to approve tax reform, such as a capital gains tax on items such as stocks, bonds and income on property.

She said she favors a state income tax, because it is a more equitable way of taxing people.

Reedy said he would like to see legislators hold a congressional-style investigation into the way the state spends money on education. “We seem to think the only way to solve the problem is by spending more money,” he said. “I get suspicious of that.”

Some sort of tax will likely be needed, Reedy said, but “the public wants to know what we’re spending money on first before we spend more money.”

Eggen said he didn’t think that a capital gains tax is the answer for solving the education funding issue. And increase in the state’s sales tax has been discussed as one option, he said. A solution must be found because the state Supreme Court isn’t going to back down on the need to provide for a basic education, he said.

“The Legislature needs to sit down and figure it out, whether it’s permanent cuts, new revenue or some combination, he said. “We have to resolve this.”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com

The candidates:

Maralyn Chase

Age: 72

Experience: Eight years in the state House, four years in the state Senate

Website: www.maralynchase.com

Party: Democrat

Name: Chris Eggen

Age: 68

Experience: Retired University of Washington engineer, deputy Shoreline mayor for three years.

Website: www.ChrisEggenforSenate.com

Party: Democrat

Name: Robert Reedy

Age: 60

Experience: Licensed insurance agent; self employed

Website: None

Party: Republican

About the job: The job is to represent the district, which includes Shoreline, Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood, in the state Senate. The job pays $42,106 a year.

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