As a perfect storm of financial trouble gathers over the statehouse for next year’s session, the Times recommends two newcomers in the 44th Legislative District who are likely to deliver the thoughtful and responsible approach that will be required.
For Position 1, the Times recommends Republican Rob Toyer over longtime Rep. Hans Dunshee, D-Snohomish. For Position 2, Republican Mark Harmsworth has the edge over Democrat Mike Wilson.
Both Republicans have strong civic resumes. Toyer, a financial planner, is a Marysville City Council member and Harmsworth, a tech consultant, is a Mill Creek City Council member and deputy mayor. Their immersion in municipal finance is good preparation for confronting the Legislature’s difficulties.
Those challenges start with the Supreme Court’s $3 billion-or-so mandate to increase spending for public schools. The problem doubles in size if the Washington Education Association is able to pass its class-size reduction measure, Initiative 1351, which would require the hiring of 25,000 teachers and other school employees.
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A sensible approach might require an occasional yes on taxes, after other options are exhausted, and Toyer and Harmsworth are amenable to compromise.
Though voters will have final say on I-1351, it is the defining measure this year of any candidate’s financial realism. Harmsworth and Toyer say the state can’t afford it. Democrats Wilson and Dunshee say they support it but do not have a practical way to pay for it.
Wilson, an Everett high school teacher, says he is driven by a desire to improve education, but embraces the positions of the teachers’ union uncritically. Dunshee, a 20-year legislative veteran, is chairman of the capital budget committee, and is responsible for finding money for the costly school construction program I-1351 would require. He should treat the matter more seriously.
Harmsworth and Toyer seem far more likely to be problem-solvers, at a time when problems number in the billions.
Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Jonathan Martin, Erik Smith, Thanh Tan, Robert J. Vickers, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).