The race between Washington state 15th District Rep. David Taylor, R-Moxee, and Central Washington University student Pablo Gonzalez of Zillah has drawn statewide interest following last year's redistricting process.
The district was redrawn to make it the state's first Hispanic majority legislative district in part due to arguments that minorities weren't being given a fair shot at elected representation.
But as the campaign wears on, the candidates have all but put talk of ethnicity aside. The campaign has come down to differences in policy and point of view, with Taylor touting himself as an independent conservative while Gonzalez considers himself an open-minded outsider who can bring both sides together.
Question: Initiative 1185 on the November ballot would re-impose an existing law requiring a two-thirds vote in the Legislature, or voter approval, to boost taxes. This comes at a time when the state budget and the economy are still struggling and the state Supreme Court has mandated increased funding for public schools. How do you propose to resolve the conflict between funding education and not imposing new taxes?
Taylor: I think we need to take a real close look at what the definition of basic education is. There has been a move to expand basic education into preschool, but I think it's incumbent upon parents to take care of early childhood education. K-12 is basic education, and the Legislature should adopt a separate budget early in the session, not the last day of the regular sessions or the last day of a special session. Education is the only thing mentioned in the state Constitution as the paramount duty of the Legislature. Let's get an education package settled on early, and then we'll know what we have left to balance the budget on.
There's 7 percent more funding in this biennium than there was in the last. We could increase the line item budget to a point people agree on, we could remove limits on government-held land that private industry could develop on to increase property taxes.
We also need to create more efficiency in our education system and get rid of some mandates. We are testing kids nonstop. It's a snapshot in time and it has little direct correlation with where they're at within their knowledge.
Gonzalez: We should fund education first. On the issue of taxes, I'm hesitant to rely on that because the voters need to make a decision. I personally will vote against Initiative 1185. Raising taxes would help fund education, and it's our paramount duty to fund it. At the same time, we could also generate revenue by offering incentives to small businesses to hire more people and ultimately have people spending more, feeding into our overall sales tax collections.
Q: Planning for the proposed Yakima Basin Enhancement Project is moving toward its goal of expanding water storage for agricultural use in the Kittitas and Yakima valleys. Talks have involved state, local, tribal and federal governments, as well as irrigation districts and the agriculture industry. What role should the state take in this issue? Should state money be involved?
Gonzalez: I think federal and state money should go to the project. It's an important thing we need here in the area. I don't think farmers want their crops rotting. It's a project that brings Democrats and Republicans together. I have a really close personal relationship with some of the farmers here locally, and listening to local farmers is important and something the state government needs. This is needed for our future economy here locally.
Taylor: Given that the state is the final arbitrator of water rights we most definitely have to be involved. We need to look at this from an agricultural and emergency management standpoint. I think state funds should be spent on it as part of the capital budget. I don't think state funds should be used for purchasing more land, and that is part of the current proposal. There's plenty of state and federally owned land right now. There are also a lot of property owners who are going to benefit from water storage whether they want to admit it. We need to look at who's at the table and who's paying for it. That investment needs to be commensurate with the benefit provided.
Q: Washington is one of two states that do not require official Social Security documentation to obtain a driver's license. Critics say this has made the state a magnet for undocumented immigrants who come to this state and get a driver's license for identification purposes. Would you support a bill that required proof of citizenship to obtain a license?
Taylor: Absolutely. If we could have two driver's licenses, one for official identification purposes and one just strictly for driving purposes, I think that would be the simple solution. How that would work and the cost of doing that I think at this point are unknown. This proposal is not an attack on the immigrant population. As a taxpayer and a legislator, it's my duty to be watchful of how taxpayer money is being spent and whether nonresidents are using state driver's licenses to get benefits that aren't theirs.
Gonzalez: I do think people should prove they're here legally. I don't think taking driver's licenses from people who already have them is a good move. I think a lot of people picking our fruit and working hard sometimes don't have the proper identification, and if we have a system that limits their access to transportation, it's not going to help our economy. A lot of these people who couldn't present Social Security identification are people who are paying into that system but aren't able to draw anything out. Having a system that still makes driver's licenses available to those without Social Security identification is good. Not having transportation is something that cripples people economically.
Party affiliation: Republican
Occupation: Owner-operator Taylor Consulting Group, cattle and quarter horse rancher.
Previous elective office: Appointed in 2009; elected in 2009; elected in 2010.
Community service: 4-H cattle leader; Cattle in the Classroom in area schools; Agriculture-Forestry Leadership; and Yakima County Republican Party.
Party affiliation: Democrat
Occupation: College senior
Previous elective office: none
Community service: Washington Students Association advisory committee; CWU parking appeals committee; researcher at National Social Science Association; ?Cross-Cultural Leadership Program at CWU; coached second- to third-grade league basketball team in '08-09.
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