Candidate showdown at Highline

By Michael Simpson - Staff Reporter

The 30th district state House candidates disagree on how to pay for public schools and on whether the region should further invest in Sound Transit.

Two pairs of candidates competing for two state House seats came to Highline on Wednesday to talk about why they should be elected.

They took student questions in Building 8, Mt. Constance.

State Rep. Linda Kochmar, Republican, and Mike Pellicciotti, Democrat, are campaigning for position one.

State Rep. Teri Hickel, Republican, and Kristine Reeves, Democrat, are campaigning for position two.

The McCleary decision and ST3 were among the issues discussed.

The McCleary decision is an order by the state Supreme Court to to Legislature to meet the state Constitution by fully funding K-12 education.

Fully funding education includes operating costs, supplies, transportation and market-rate staff compensation. The office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction says it will cost an additional $3.8 billion per year to pay for this.

Rep. Kochmar, who touted her extensive record as mayor and council member of Federal Way, said that McCleary needs to be paid for before any additional projects are taken on.

Pellicciotti, currently assistant state attorney general, said the state should be fully funding McCleary, but not a via a levy swap, in which local property taxes across the state would be equalized.

Rep. Hickel has served in the Legislature for one year and was executive director of the Advancing Leadership Foundation for 15 years.

She said she strongly supports a levy swap to fund McCleary.

"In a district like ours, we pay three times the amount that other districts around us pay in our local levy dollars," Rep. Hickel said. "So it's just not fair."

Reeves is the associate director of the industry sector economic development program at the Washington state Department of Commerce.

She said her background in economic development is crucial to bringing a stronger tax base to the 30th district, which would help fund McCleary.

She said she wants to close tax loopholes to help fund McCleary.

"I want to make sure my kid and every kid in the district has the best education possible," Reeves said.

ST3 is the plan to build 62 miles of new light rail, including stops in Federal Way, Bellevue and Tacoma, plus added bus service and more transit sopts. Proposition 1 will raise $27.7 billion in new taxes for the $54 billion project.

Rep. Kochmar said she wants to address ST3 at a future date.

ST3 will trigger the biggest tax increase in history, and a family household of four will pay extra taxes of $750 to $2,500 per year, Rep. Kochmar said.

Pellicciotti said he will vote for ST3 and will respect the voters decision if it gets passed or not.

Rep. Hickel said she won't vote for ST3 because it's too expensive and she supports congestion relief projects.

Reeves said that a light rail system is an efficient alternative to roads.

"As we cram a million more people into this district over the decade, we've got to figure out how to make sure we have transportation options that work for everybody," she said.

Rep. Kochmar and Reeves offered solutions on how to fund higher public education.

Rep. Kochmar said again that fully funding K-12 is priority, but she plans to continue to ask for money to fund Highline improvements such as more parking.

She said she has a history of funding facility improvements on the Highline campus.

Reeves said the minimum wage needs to be raised so working student can afford tuition and books.

The last day to vote is Nov. 8.

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