Rep Marko Liias is an exceptional lawmaker of the worth-emulating school, value-driven, wonky and tireless. The son of Finnish immigrants, Liias served as a twentysomething Mukilteo city councilmember before his election to the Legislature in 2008. In a brief span, Liias has distinguished himself, laboring to pass a casebook anti-bullying law and rising to vice-chair of the House Transportation Committee. It’s Liias’ leadership on transportation that could play a determinative role in the economic health of Snohomish County and the Puget Sound region.
In the upcoming legislative session, transportation and education (Liias also serves on the House Education Committee) take center stage. A powerful Snohomish County voice is critical to inform a comprehensive transportation package, one that’s likely to be sent to voters for their OK. Strategic corridors are still the paradigm, and that includes a new Columbia River bridge, improvements to State Route 9 and Highway 2 in Snohomish County, and upgrades to Highway 509 which runs from Tacoma to South Seattle. As Liias notes, a complicating factor is the long-term decline of gas-tax revenue, with motorists reaping the windfall of more fuel-efficient cars.
Liias, who underwrote his college tuition with student loans and scholarships, is also a champion of increasing access to higher-ed in Snohomish County. He supports turning WSU/Everett into a four-year branch campus as well as augmenting enrollment slots at the county’s community and technical colleges. As a matter of principle, Liias opposed extending tuition-setting authority to the state’s four-year universities. He lost that fight, but it stands as an example of his neck-extending (and occasionally naïve) willingness to put his ideals into practice.
Liias is opposed by Republican Kevin Morrison, a Howard Beale-style political novice who finds the incumbent’s voting record inconsistent with the political sensibilities of the 21st district. Morrison is especially angry at Liias’ opposition to I-1185, Tim Eyman’s latest effort to enshrine the two-thirds’ rule for new revenue, and for Liias’ support of marriage equality. Morrison gives expression to the mad-as-hell protest candidate, but he needs to do his homework on basic budget and transportation issues to merit support from even diehard Republicans.
Liias’ seatmate, Rep. Mary Helen Roberts, is running unopposed. A four-term Democrat, Roberts is currently vice chair of the House Early Learning and Human Services Committee and has championed measures to improve opportunities for Washington’s foster youth. After the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision mandating additional resources for K-12, she could play a pivotal role enhancing early learning as a primary thread in the larger fabric of basic education.
The Herald Editorial Board recommends the re-election of Reps. Marko Liias and Mary Helen Roberts.