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Rossi: Keep people safe, repair budget

Dino Rossi thought everybody drank powdered milk.

As the youngest of seven children, he was raised on a teacher’s salary. When it came time to go to college, he found out he was wrong.

“The nay sayers said, ‘Kid, you ain’t going to college. You grew up in Mountlake Terrace drinking powdered milk,” he recalled during a recent visit to the Overlake Rotary Club in Bellevue attended by more than 100 people.

Making his way through the school of business at Seattle University, he worked construction and even waxed floors at the Space Needle. Now, the former Washington state senator is on the dean’s advisory board for the school of business because he didn’t listen to those nay sayers.

In his race for governor against Gov. Chris Gregoire this year, he’s still not listening, he says.

As part of the Rotary club’s candidate forum series, Rossi looked ahead to the state’s challenges he would tackle, including education, public safety, transportation and fiscal responsibility.

Last month’s forum featured Gregoire, who reflected on the challenges the state has faced over the past four years she has spent as governor.

This time around, the playing field is different, Rossi said of this year’s election.

With the debacle of the 2004 election, in which Rossi led Gregoire after two machine counts, before losing to a final manual count by 129 votes, the system has changed. The state now has a voter database that has wiped out more than 465,000 registrations off the voting rolls that shouldn’t have been there, he said.

The last election also fueled a new “citizen’s movement,” where 67 percent of his contributors are new to the campaign. Ever since he made the announcement he would run again “this thing has been like drinking out of a fire house,” Rossi said of his campaign.

Those supporters include several police guilds that have endorsed his campaign, including King County, Renton and Seattle.

Focusing on public safety, Rossi wants people to feel safe in their community. His incumbent’s administration released more than 3,000 violent felons from prison early, three of whom killed police officers, he noted.

In addition, about 1,300 sex offenders are registered as homeless. As governor, Rossi said he will stop the early release of violent felons and track sex offender. Offenders would be required to register their DNA with the state and the most dangerous sex offenders would be outfitted with real-time GPS technology.

Concerning education, students are not being better prepared for math to compete with countries such as India and China, he said.

“It’s because we’re always concerned about what the adults are squabbling about, which often times really isn’t in the best interest of the children,” Rossi said.

He wants education reform that will put students first. Highlights of his plan include working with the state board of education to replace the WASL with America’s best standardized test; requiring all students to pass the new standardized test and allowing only limited and rigorous alternatives and empowering local school principals by giving them the authority to remove underperforming teachers and the ability to establish new curriculum when a school has declining test scores for three consecutive years.

Rossi says his vision of what transportation should look like in the state is different than Gregoire’s vision.

His is rooted in freedom to choose the preferred mode of transportation, whether it be car, bus or bike.

“You shouldn’t be forced into a governor-approved sanctioned mode of transportation,” he said. “My opponent has said that we need to force people out of their cars.”

Also, calling it an “urban-centric point of view,” Rossi said his opposition wants to toll the 520 bridge next year as much as $14 during peak hours.

“I don’t believe that only rich people should be allowed to drive,” he added.

He has come up with a $15 billion transportation plan that includes such projects as adding several more lanes to Interstate 405, finishing Highway 167 all the way to the Port of Tacoma “so you can actually get those containers off of I-5,” and finishing Highway 509.

As for 520, he proposes to build the pontoons out to eight lanes to provide for greater access and capacity.

According to the state Department of Transportation, congestion is costing the state more than $600 million a year, he said. Something has to be done or the economy will fail, Rossi added.

And the state can do it without raising taxes, he said. It can use the revenue stream from the 40 percent sales tax generated from car sales.

Rossi also hopes to repair the state budget and vows to be more fiscally responsible. The incumbent, he says, has increased the size of the state budget by over 33 percent, which is the equivalent of $5.7 million a day in new spending.

“She’s blown through the biggest surplus the state has ever know at $2.1 billion,” he said of Gregoire, adding, “If everything goes right in Olympia, she will have managed to turn it into a $2.7 billion deficit for the next governor to face.”

Rossi said has balanced a deficit like this before in 2003 while a chairman on the Senate Ways and Means Committee during the largest dollar deficit in state history - a huge advantage he has in this race, he added.

“Rarely in life do we get a second chance,” he said. “Well folks, with this race for governor, Washington state gets a second chance.”

Carrie Wood can be reached at cwood@reporternewspapers.com or 425-453-4290.

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