48th District Senate candidates address school funding, taxes, housing

Three candidates are gunning for the state Senate seat in the 48th Legislative District, which represents north Bellevue, Redmond, part of Kirkland, Medina and the Points communities.

Incumbent Patty Kuderer, Democrat, was appointed to the position after previous state Sen. Cyrus Habib won the lieutenant governor position in Olympia. She was previously the 48th’s Position 1 representative.

Challenging her is Michelle Darnell — a Libertarian who earned more than 36 percent of the vote running for the state Senate in 2014 — and Dr. Richard Knierim — a pathologist with Swedish Medical Center and running as an Independent Democrat.

Kuderer is a lawyer by trade, and she hopes to work within precedents to achieve the No. 1 goal of legislators in the statehouse — fully fund schools.

She said expanding a property tax freeze system and implementing a real estate excise tax would help poorer Washingtonians while taxing more affluent ones (according to Kuderer, such a tax would impact just 30,000 residents statewide). She said the Republicans in Olympia were looking toward a much more regressive tax structure.

“We need a complete tax structure overhaul,” she said. “We need to reduce property tax and reform the [Business and Occupation] tax, it’s a small business killer.”

She said taxing internet sales would be a good idea, but said that a state income tax would only ever be a possibility with widespread public support and a state constitutional amendment.

Kuderer said that a public bank, much like what North Dakota has run since 1919, would be able to handle the state’s $3.2 billion debt services and would be beholden to the taxpayers.

“It would have to be set up right, but cities, counties and [public utility districts] would be able to use it.” she said. “With it, you could build infrastructure in rural areas and when you pay it back, you pay yourself.”

She said that leadership in Washington, D.C. was not working for the country, and that proactive solutions on a statewide level were necessary for smart governance.

Michelle Darnell is a paralegal and mother of four who became energized by politics during Ron Paul’s 2008 election run and — surprisingly for a Libertarian candidate — during the Occupy Wall Street movement when she went to downtown Seattle to speak to protestors.

She decided to run after witnessing firsthand how difficult many families have it when it comes to owning or renting homes in the 48th.

“I thought I would help them fight for justice in the courts and I found there wasn’t much justice in the justice system,” Darnell said.

She said free market solutions can be found for the housing crisis, and that Democrats would use homelessness as an excuse to raise taxes.

In funding schools, Darnell thinks there are missed opportunities when the sides do not communicate, and others when legislators don’t analyze where the public funds are going.

“We need to use our money better,” she said. “We should re-examine where the money is going to.”

Darnell said that if she is elected, policy advisors and shareholders in the education system would have a direct pipeline to her office so she can make the most informed decisions.

However, she also claims that charter schools might be a more equitable option.

“Parents care about their own kids more than the government does,” she said. “Parents right now have no freedom. They are told where they can go to school. Why not let the free market decide?”

Dr. Richard Knierim is a longtime 48th Legislative District resident, laboratory physician and pathologist. He is running as an Independent Democrat because he would like to bridge the gap between Democrats and Republicans in the statehouse.

“I’d like to be close to the center,” he said. “There’s so much partisan spin on either side, I’d like to listen to the best ideas from both sides and make the best decisions.”

What some of these best decisions are, he is not sure, but he said if elected, he will do meticulous research and make conscientious decisions.

He is in favor of small hikes in property tax for the Eastside, Seattle and affluent communities to help meet the financial obligations of McCleary.

“It’s the only solution that’s going to fly,” he said. “I want to be fiscally responsible but I want to be socially progressive.”

Knierim said he wanted to change the outdated model that formulates the car tab bills, and bring them more into line with Blue Book values.

As for the housing issue, he said he would “take the best ideas from the left and the best from the right and get the best solution for a complicated issue.”

A longtime physician, Knierim is passionate about the national health care issue. He claims there were issues with the way the Affordable Care Act was rushed through Congress, but said it was irresponsible of President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress to cut health care for millions of Americans.

“We have to have a safety net,” Knierim said. “I’m not convinced Medicaid is the best solution because many physicians won’t accept Medicaid, but I’ll be the only physician in Olympia if elected, which gives me some insight.”

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