Editor's note: Patch has submitted questionnaires to state representative candidates in the 32nd District, which serves parts of Edmonds and all of Woodway, in addition to Shoreline and Lake Forest Park.
NAME: Ruth Kagi
OFFICE SOUGHT: State Representative 32nd District Position #2
PARTY AFFILIATION: Democrat
TOWN OF RESIDENCE: Seattle
CURRENT OCCUPATION: State Representative
PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND: Public policy analyst; community volunteer
WHAT IS THE MOST PRESSING ISSUE FACING VOTERS IN YOUR DISTRICT: The quality of education in our schools, and providing quality pre-school education to children most in need to assure that they get to school ready to succeed.
Funding for our schools has been severely impacted by the enormous revenue
losses over the past four years. The Supreme Court in the McCleary decision
stated that the legislature is not meeting its constitutional obligation to amply fund education.
The Supreme Court has directed the legislature to fund education reforms passed by the legislature in 2009 and 2010. The reforms require implementation of full day kindergarten, reduced K-3 class sizes and increased funding for transportation, maintenance and supplies.
The bills require education funding to be based on "prototype schools" which will
allow the public to understand what state dollars are funding. The reforms also include a new teacher evaluation system and professional development opportunities for teachers. The estimated cost of funding these reforms in the next biennium ranges from $1.2 billion to over $4 billion.
The legislature also passed a bill in 2010 to expand the state's pre-school program to serve all eligible low income children. Research clearly shows that this investment will improve outcomes in our K-12 schools, and greatly reduce the need for remedial education.
Finally, our higher education system has taken devastating cuts over the past four years and tuition has increased dramatically as a result. In order to keep higher education accessible to middle class families, we must find a new financial model for higher education.
IF ELECTED, WHAT WILL YOU DO IN THE FIRST SIX MONTHS IN OFFICE TO ADDRESS THIS ISSUE? The funding of our K-12 schools, pre-school for low income children and funding for higher education will have to be addressed next session in the bi-ennial budget. Because the legislature has cut more than $10 billion in funding to education, social and health services and all functions of state government over the past four years, it is highly unlikely that additional budget reductions can or should be taken to fund education.
Some increased revenue from our improving economy will be available to fund our education needs, but a large gap is likely to remain. The legislature should look at a wide range of proposals for new revenue to specifically fund education including closing tax loopholes and identifying new revenue sources.
Because the state does not have an income tax, the tax burden currently falls disproportionately on low income people. Washington has the most regressive tax system in the nation. The legislature needs to consider legislation that does not increase this regressivity (such as increasing the sales tax) but instead taxes individuals who are most able to pay.
DO YOU SUPPORT/OPPOSE REFERENDUM 74: SHOULD GAY MARRIAGE BE LEGAL IN WASHINGTON? BRIEFLY, WHY? I strongly support referendum 74 because the state should provide legal recognition for all families in the state. Washington has many policies that recognize the importance of strong families, and this should be one of them. Children growing up in families
with same sex parents deserve the same stability and legal protections as
families with a mom and a dad.
Why shouldn't two people who love each other and want to make a commitment to each other be granted the right to marry?
DO YOU SUPPORT/OPPOSE, INITIATIVE 502 TO MAKE SMALL AMOUNTS OF MARIJUANA LEGAL TO PEOPLE 21 AND OLDER? BRIEFLY, WHY? This initiative has been difficult for me, as I have seen the destruction marijuana can have on adolescents, changing their life course forever. But the fact is adolescents, and anyone else, can easily buy marijuana now. Prohibition has not worked.
I would rather make purchase of small amounts of marijuana legal, assuring that the product is safe and regulated. There have been numerous cases recently of individuals buying "synthetic" marijuana and suffering kidney failure. In the current market, no one can be sure exactly what they are buying and whether or not it is toxic.
Ten years ago, I sponsored and passed a major drug reform bill that reduced
sentences for non-violent drug offenses, and invested the savings from our
prison system into drug courts. Despite that change, individuals continue to be arrested and prosecuted for possession of marijuana, wasting millions of tax dollars and often creating insurmountable barriers for people to get an education or a job.
The Children's Alliance endorsed the initiative because of the disproportionate impact of drug laws on minority populations, and the tremendous toll this takes on children in families made unstable by the arrest and prosecution of a parent for possession of marijuana.
I have concluded that legalizing the drug, regulating it, and taxing it would be an improvement and would provide revenue for education and treatment.