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State Reps Face Challengers On Fall Ballot

Election 2008

By RACHEL CAVANAUGH and JESSE BURKHARDT

The Enterprise

On Nov. 4, two incumbent Republican State Representatives will face Democratic challengers for the right to serve another two-year term with the Washington Legislature.

The upcoming contests will decide which two candidates will represent Washington's 15th Legislative District, which includes all of Klickitat County.

In one race, incumbent Republican State Rep. Bruce Chandler, an orchardist who lives in Granger, is being challenged by Democrat John Gotts, a White Salmon entrepreneur. In the other contest, incumbent Republican State Rep. Dan Newhouse, a farmer from Sunnyside, will face Democrat Tao Berman, a professional athlete who lives in White Salmon.

Klickitat County residents will cast ballots for both of these positions on the ballot. Because legislative districts are represented by two state legislators, voters will be asked to cast their ballots for either Chandler or Gotts in one race; and for either Berman or Newhouse in the other race.

To give voters a better idea of the views of all four of these candidates, we asked a series of questions of each of them over the last week.

THE ENTERPRISE:

What do you see as the two or three biggest problems currently facing Klickitat County, and how do you propose to solve them?

NEWHOUSE:

First, creating new jobs and stimulating the economy. Second, finding new solutions to deal with rising health care costs. And third, with the current national financial situation, it is more important than ever for the state to control spending and to limit the amount of taxes levied on our citizens.

For the first issue, Klickitat County has many assets which are attractive to business. Our rural lifestyle, good weather, good transportation, proximity to population centers, and good potential work force. The best thing we can do is make sure the necessary infrastructure is available like roads, rail, utilities, zoning, and favorable tax conditions. Then, increasing the number of businesses locating here will be easier.

Secondly, giving people more choice in kinds of health insurance they purchase, more options of insurance providers, more control and choice of where their medical dollars go and to actually be a part of the decision and not let insurance companies or government bureaucrats dictate options and choices would help. Also attracting and keeping good doctors in our rural communities is essential.

Thirdly, with the concerns on Wall Street and the potential effects on all Americans, increasing the tax burden now would be unwise and a drain on the economy and a hit to people's ability to provide for their families. State government must set spending priorities and not spend more than existing revenue.

GOTTS:

Klickitat County, and in fact the entire 15th Legislative District, does not currently have a comprehensive plan for creating prosperity in all cities, incorporated and unincorporated. I am currently working with city and county government to put such a plan in place and am making terrific progress.

Klickitat County needs more living-wage jobs. Bringing back living-wage jobs with access to insurance is the highest priority for any comprehensive plan. There are three ways that I will help to create these jobs: Put an end to current lawsuits by groups that have a history of what appears to be organized extortion against any and all current large-scale businesses attempting to do business in our district. Start small business incubators in each city to promote new local small business. Continue to expand efforts into green energy in the way of wind, solar and hydro projects. These jobs take much longer to bring on line, and once completed don't employ as many people as logging and small business will.

Klickitat County needs immediate revenue for services such as senior care, veterans' care, education, emergency services, better roads, and other city and county services. By introducing the idea of co-op wind farms each city could own any number of turbines located within a single farm, providing that city with income even though the actual turbine is located far away from the city, within the Energy Overlay Zone east of Goldendale. Cities can get lines of credit with the stroke of a pen, and so this idea would ultimately bring in tens to hundreds of millions of dollars annually with no cost whatsoever to the taxpayers, the county, or the cities involved as owners. The PUD would be invited to join as a knowledgeable partner and the management would be put up to bid. This would solve MANY if not all of the problems for fiscal financial shortfalls facing our cities now.

CHANDLER:

We all want to live in safe, strong, prosperous communities. We must continue to protect our neighborhoods from crime and work to reduce drug abuse, especially meth addiction. We also need to support local infrastructure and services to help grow local businesses. We also need to continue working to provide quality health care for rural communities.

BERMAN:

The biggest problems I see facing Klickitat County are a lack of jobs, affordable housing, and water rights. As a State Representative I would be focused on working with businesses in the Seattle and Portland area to educate them about some of the advantages our district has over where they are currently located. If businesses realized that their rents would just be about a third of what they are currently paying, that would affect their bottom line imminently. Of course our district also offers quality of life, a good place to raise kids, and a lower cost of living. If we can bring more businesses into our community, it will provide more jobs and increase the tax base. Increasing the tax base is really important because it will help our schools, hospitals, etc.

THE ENTERPRISE:

How can Klickitat County specifically begin taking a lead in tackling the region's and nation's increasing energy issues?

NEWHOUSE:

Klickitat County has tremendous potential in meeting the region's energy needs. Certainly the continued use of hydroelectric power is essential, but we are ideally situated to capitalize on wind and solar as well, and must look to these alternatives while being responsible and smart in where generation plants are located. Landfill gas is increasing in availability as well as potential in natural gas. We truly do have a bright energy future here.

GOTTS:

Klickitat County is already taking the lead by creating the Energy Overlay Zone, but if the organized lawsuits -- which could be translated by some as economic terrorism -- are not stopped, we will not progress with any speed and could greatly miss what is an opportunity literally in our backyard and which is very real. Once the senseless lawsuits and organized extortion is brought to an end, hopefully with the help of the state Attorney General and the feds, Klickitat County is already on its way to becoming the hot spot for wind power. I am personally working with Columbia Bio-energy in the pursuit of creating bio-diesel at the John Day aluminum plant. That facility could produce half a billion gallons of salable product annually when fully built out. By focusing on the ample amounts of solar, wind, and hydro energy and tapping these renewable sources Washington is already helping lead the nation to energy independence.

CHANDLER:

Klickitat County is becoming the center for wind energy generation in our region and I believe that will continue. It is also a great place to attract businesses that focus on energy innovation. I also support allowing communities, such as the Lyle School District, more flexibility to make changes that help save energy and make their resources go farther.

BERMAN:

Klickitat County is well positioned to be a leader in tackling our nation's energy issues for several reasons. We have wind and water, which both produce energy. My focus would be on wind energy because I believe it's more environmentally friendly, and has so much potential for growth. Washington is also viewed as a business friendly state because of our tax structure, so that also helps encourage development of wind farms. I would work to create more tax credits to promote more development of our wind farms. I would also make sure that the wind farms were paying local taxes. The higher the tax base we have, the lower our property taxes will be. With so many of our elderly on fixed incomes, we can't keep raising property taxes without some of our elderly being forced to sell their homes. So working to grow our wind farms will help our community in many ways.

THE ENTERPRISE:

What specific water issues are facing Klickitat County and how can they realistically be addressed?

NEWHOUSE:

Klickitat County while located next to one of the largest rivers in North America faces critical water challenges. From building moratoriums in White Salmon to 20 year long waiting periods for water rights in Centerville to aging water systems in many communities. Through creative use of the 2006 Columbia River legislation making more water available for use and in-stream flows I believe we can provide much needed water for communities and long awaited water rights. Investment in aging water infrastructure will allow for better health, safety, fire protection and continued growth of our communities.

GOTTS:

I think it's a shame that trillions of gallons of fresh water flow into the ocean to become undrinkable salt water. I believe we should consider tapping the Columbia to refill wells and aquifers as well as to filter as drinking water. In addition I believe we should look to see what crops can be rotated to drip irrigation to prevent water loss to evaporation using current methods. Sustainability of life is what's important and the Columbia could provide what it now sheds into the ocean and the human impact would be seemingly small.

CHANDLER:

Restoring White Salmon's water supply is the most urgent water issue. I'll continue working with state agencies to make sure they help the community complete the project as quickly as possible. I'll also work to persuade the agencies to support efforts to provide reliable water for ranchers, farmers and local communities and improve water management.

BERMAN:

Water rights aren't just an issue facing Klickitat County. It's an issue facing continents, countries, states, and counties everywhere. As a State Representative I would be working to get more water rights for our farmers and towns. But because towns everywhere are also trying to get more water, it's not going to be easy. White Salmon has been working with the Department of Ecology for years to try to resolve some of our water issues, and they still haven't been resolved. I believe the focus needs to also be on water conservation. Drip systems for farming are far more efficient than what has been used in the past. In fact, drip systems have now made it possible to farm areas of Africa that have very little water. I would work to create tax incentives for our local farmers to upgrade to drip systems. I would also work to create more tax incentives for home owners to upgrade to appliances that use less water. Europe has done a very good job with this and I think we can learn something from their success. If we can use 40 percent less water because of these upgrades that is the equivalent of increasing our water rights by 40 percent.

THE ENTERPRISE:

What two things are most needed in our district's schools and how can they be achieved?

NEWHOUSE:

Our school districts need the support of the state to help provide the fundamentals of education. From books and learning materials and transportation costs to special needs students and adequate pay to attract and keep quality teachers and support staff, school districts should not have to rely on local levies for many of these essentials.

GOTTS:

We need to bring back hope to our district's schools by providing proper funding from co-op municipally-owned wind farm revenue. In addition to funding we need to bring back trades such as wood shop, welding and classes that will teach students that might not be headed to college what trades might earn them a good living job after they complete high school.

CHANDLER:

The Legislature will be forced to respond to a pending court ruling next year that may significantly change state funding for public schools. It will be crucial to protect levy equalization, which supports districts like ours struggling with a limited tax base. The state also needs to fully fund transportation costs which are higher for rural school districts and to reform special education funding to cover the real costs to local districts.

BERMAN:

What our schools need more than anything is better funding. But that is going to be difficult to do at a state level, because education already consumes about 42 percent of the budget. And with a projected $3.2 billion deficit, it's not realistic to expect to receive more money.

Many politicians may make promises of substantially increased funding but that wouldn't be an honest promise. Unfortunately our schools are going to have to be even more efficient with the money they have. That being said, I believe we need smaller classes, better teacher mentoring programs like they have in Europe, and more skill based classes like wood and metal shop. I really believe our children are our future, and we need to do everything we can to prepare them for what has become a global market place. If elected I promise I will always remain focused on doing everything possible to improve education.

THE ENTERPRISE:

Where do you stand on the Farmland Preservation zoning issue here in the county?

NEWHOUSE:

As a farmer I do support the notion of preserving farmland. Our biggest assets include our rural life style but also our productive farm and range land. With a growing world population, the ability to produce food is more important than ever. I do support the general goals of the current proposal but I think the specifics need to be explored and discussed further before I can say that this is what should be adopted.

GOTTS:

A farmer's land belongs to the farmer and they should choose what to do with land that's been in their families sometimes for many generations. The government should not say what a person does with something they own so long as it is not hurting the community. It's important to preserve our farms, but it is also important that a farmer should be able to make their own mind up about what they do with their land. If a group wants to preserve the land they can buy it for an agreed value and then do as they choose, but those ideas should not be forced on the land owner.

CHANDLER:

Farmland preservation is an issue that is very close to me personally, being a family farmer myself. The draft ordinance recently presented to the County Commissioners includes concepts I think have considerable potential. I'll work with the commissioners and farmers to try to develop a proposal that will work for Klickitat County and become a useful model for the rest of the state.

BERMAN:

I strongly believe in land owner rights, and think the Farmland Preservation issue should be decided by the farmers, not the politicians.

Editor's Note: There was not room to run all the interview questions in this issue, but the rest of the interview questions and answers can be found on The Enterprise Web site at:

www.whitesalmonenterprise.com.

EXCESS CUT FROM PAPER HERE

THE ENTERPRISE:

How do you view the current Legislature's spending patterns? How can state representatives find a balance between getting enough funding to meet the needs of their districts and getting into patterns of overspending?

NEWHOUSE:

The current Legislature has continued to pass budgets that have state spending at levels higher than state revenues. I disagree with this policy and have argued against doing so and have repeatedly voted against doing this. The Legislature's responsibility is to keep the amount of spending within the limits of what can be afforded. Doing otherwise goes against what the people send us to Olympia to do and risks passing increased taxes to pay the bill.

GOTTS:

If our state was a business it would be broke and closed. We simply cannot spend what we don't have. It seems that no matter how much money is coming in the state finds a way to spend more. It's time to do something painful but needed and that is to bring out a red pen and cut back on all programs where possible and end any wasteful pork spending, which almost certainly exists. In the future, the state should focus on how to create more opportunity to attract and expand business and with all gains in revenue must put that money to work creating more money, not more bureaucracy.

CHANDLER:

The rapid growth of state spending in recent years is clearly unsustainable. It is growing faster than family incomes and the state must do what working families do -- live within its means. Several actions will go a long way toward bringing state spending in line with tax revenue. We should adequately fund existing programs before creating new ones. Some new programs created during the last several years should be set aside, such as the Paid Family Leave Program, which has never been funded. We should implement the recommendations of the state auditor's performance audits to make current operations more efficient. We should also protect the small balance in the reserve fund.

BERMAN:

I think it's very important for the state to have a balanced budget. We have a projected $3.2 billion budget deficit for 2009. So we are going to have to make some difficult decisions and start making some cuts. I believe that the first thing to identify is what is too important to cut and go from there. Education is 42 percent of the state budget. Health care is another 20 percent. I've said many times that our kids are our future and we can't afford to cut education because that is an investment in the future of our country. So we need to go to a priority based budget. What I mean by that is that each agency that submits its budget request needs to do it based on prioritizing from most important to least important.

THE ENTERPRISE:

If elected, what will be your top three spending priorities? What would you cut or shift funding away from?

NEWHOUSE:

Our state's funding priorities must include education, which is constitutionally mandated as the paramount duty of the state; improving the state's health care system; and public safety, meaning police, fire, health. I do not believe we should fund the recently passed paid family leave law, concentrating instead of those things currently in place before starting any new programs. I want the state to return to the priorities of government system with each state agency setting spending priorities and then only funding that which we can afford.

GOTTS:

My top spending priorities will be to end what in my opinion is economic terrorism affecting the growth of our community. I would focus all needed resources to put an end to what I believe are borderline criminal organizations acting as gatekeepers to stop our economic growth as well as damaging the forests by preventing maintenance. I would spend more on education, as well as senior care to help those on fixed incomes that have no other place to turn. I would shift money away from anything not vital to our current survival and beyond I will cut anything that doesn't specifically help our community grow out of this and which we can do without. There is ALWAYS pork in large government. I will get out the chain saw and remove that pork.

CHANDLER:

It's important to keep in mind that despite current economic events our state still is projected to receive more tax revenue next year than ever before in state history. The next budget will almost certainly be larger than the current one. Some programs are not funded now and should be deferred.

BERMAN:

I wouldn't cut education, health care, or benefits to our disabled. Most other programs would have some cuts. I would start by making cuts based on the priority of what is least important. But my focus wouldn't just be on making cuts. It would be on making our state be more efficient with the money it has. The state doesn't have a revenue problem. It has a spending problem. If a business has cash flow problems it works to be more efficient with the money it has. I believe our state needs to start doing the same thing.

THE ENTERPRISE:

There are many empty storefronts in Goldendale, Bingen, White Salmon, and other parts of the county. How can these business districts be revitalized?

NEWHOUSE:

By the state helping communities build the necessary utilities and infrastructure that businesses and industry need we can attract new business as well as retain current ones. We can then increase available jobs and in turn support a strong business community in our towns. I have and will continue to work hard to do just this.

GOTTS:

We need to start and fund incubators that encourage new small businesses to fill our storefronts. Within the comprehensive plan I am helping to create will be a section specifically pertaining to this including classes, monthly meetings, working with the city chamber offices and doing all we can to make it as easy as possible for anyone to start a business that would be beneficial to the community so far as goods and services as well as creating more jobs.

CHANDLER:

Small businesses providing good jobs are already beginning to re-energize the local economy. I'll continue to work with local communities to create incentives that will attract and support successful small businesses.

BERMAN:

I believe focusing on bringing more businesses into our towns should be the number one priority for our State Representatives. I don't believe that this is going to be achieved simply by legislating in Olympia. As a State Representative, I would work with business owners in the Seattle and Portland area to sell them on some of the advantages that our towns have over where they are currently. I would also work directly with the economic development groups and city councils to create more incentives for businesses to relocate or expand into our towns.

This is the most important question that voters should be asking themselves. I believe we all need to ask ourselves a couple fundamental questions. Are there more jobs available to us than there were two or four years ago? Are our towns more prosperous than they have been in the past? If the answer to these questions is no, then we would be crazy to think that we can keep voting for the same person and expect a different result.

THE ENTERPRISE:

Why should voters support you rather than your opponent?

NEWHOUSE:

I was born and raised in the 15th district, my wife and I have raised our family here, my business is here, this is my home. I understand best the issues and concerns of my neighbors because they are my concerns too. I can listen and hear what is important to people and have proven to be able to work with people regardless of their political preference. I want to continue to help make our area and our state a better place to live. We have great people and much potential and I believe we have a great future.

GOTTS:

Over the period of time my opponent has been in office, we have lost businesses that employed thousands of people. Einstein says the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over while expecting a different result. It is time for a new, fresh approach to our problems, and I love to solve problems. I was a Democrat for 20 years and then a Republican for the next 20 years. I feel I represent what is best of both parties and as such consider myself a patriot, not a party loyalist. I promise to continue to work on these problems until they are solved and as State Representative I will be able to do much more than I can now as a private citizen. Thanks for your support and God bless America!

CHANDLER:

My family and I have invested our life in central Washington. We have raised three children, built a family farm and shared in community life. I have experienced the challenges and the blessings of living in a rural community. This is an exciting time to be living in the best part of our state and I want to help make it a safer, stronger, more prosperous community for all of us.

BERMAN:

I've traveled the world many times over and I can honestly say that our district is the most special place I've ever been. If elected, I promise to do everything I can to leave our community a better place than I found it.

I believe I can represent Democrats and Republicans well in Olympia. I'm pro-business, fiscally conservative, and believe that we need to focus on education. I also believe it's important to work hard in Olympia to make sure our farmers and business owners' interests are protected. My opponent is in the minority in Olympia, so it's very difficult for him to get much accomplished. I believe having someone in office that isn't in the minority would be a huge asset to our district.

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