Q&A 24th District House Pos. 1 — Kevin Van De Wege

Democrat, Sequim

Age: 38

Three-term member of Washington State House of Representatives, currently serving as Majority Whip. Lieutenant firefighter and paramedic. Bachelor Degree from Washington State University; Paramedic certification from Northwest Medical. Married to Jen, a high school teacher, for 14 years with two children.

Reasons running for office: “Creating Jobs, improving education, and holding government accountable are the reasons I first ran for office and they remain my passion. We are fighting against this global economic meltdown by creating jobs and working to bring business to Grays Harbor. Our education system is continually improving and reinventing itself to meet the worldwide demands our children are faced with. Washington State government is becoming more streamlined and efficient, saving us precious tax dollars.”

With education funding critical in the next legislative session under court mandates, how do you propose the state deal with schools in the long run and what measures can be taken to comply with the court rulings that the state must “amply provide for the education of all Washington children as the first and highest priority before any other state programs or operations?”

We need to ensure our schools will give our children the tools they need to succeed in a competitive global economy. Education funding has always been a top priority for me, and it will continue to be a top priority. This has been a very tough economy to survive in, but investing in the leaders of tomorrow is the only way for us to attain long-term prosperity and economic stability.

Do you support the following measures on the general election ballot: Initiative 1185, which reinforces existing requirements that legislative actions raising taxes must be approved by two-thirds legislative majority or voter approval; Initiative 502 that would license and regulate marijuana production, distribution and possession; Initiative 1240 that would authorize up to 40 publicly funded charter schools; and Referendum 74 that would allow same-sex couples to marry?

1185: Two-third legislative majority initiatives have been appealed to our court system. Earlier this year the case was heard in the highest and final court of jurisdiction, the Washington State Supreme Court. They are expected to announce their decision in the coming weeks, and I will work to uphold whatever the outcome.

502: Decriminalizing marijuana is something that I am open to accomplishing. Governments spend too many resources and too much money on this losing battle. Although Initiative 502 moves us in that direction, it also places a tax on marijuana and has some wild projections on how much revenue this tax will collect. I am concerned we may still use a lot of resources on enforcement and collecting this tax. I am neutral on this initiative.

1240: Although this Charter Schools Initiative is slightly smaller than the three previous initiatives that have failed in the state, it is still a proposal that I oppose. We need to continue to provide opportunities and to challenge the very best students in our public education system. Taking those students out of our current system, as this initiative will do, and putting them in their own school is an answer will hurt the entire spectrum of students.

74: We should support all loving couples in committed relationships. It’s time to end government discrimination against our neighbors, colleagues, friends, and community members. Getting married is a couple’s choice, and government should not stand in the way. I support Referendum 74.

Unemployment continues to be higher in Southwest Washington than in other parts of Western Washington. Does the state have a role in addressing the problem and what can or should be done legislatively to help spur job growth in your districts?

Yes, the state has a role, and the entire coastal delegation has worked together on job growth in the Harbor. We pressured to keep the Cosmopolis mill in working order until it could be reopened. We fought and were successful at having pontoons built here, and the state has invested heavily in Terminal 2 at the Port and are currently investing in Satsop infrastructure. All of this has and continues to create jobs. Times are tough, but with these successes we lessened the downturn.

The Harbor in large part depends on the infrastructure that links its major transportation corridors, with our bridges and thoroughfares undergoing constant maintenance and concern. With major projects in the Puget Sound area currently under way, what can be done to fix some of the long-term infrastructure concerns in more rural counties like ours?

Transportation infrastructure – including marine, railroad, and highways— is vital to this area. We have made it a priority and have had success in projects. But we have much work to do in the future. The best scenario for rural counties is continued tolling in the Puget Sound that they can use to fund their large projects; that will allow us to use the remaining gas tax dollars on vital projects right here.

Grays Harbor County currently is involved in a lawsuit brought by its Superior Court Judges over what they believe is inadequate funding for judicial operations. Does the state have an obligation to better fund its courts and criminal justice system and what suggestions do you have for possibly solving this dilemma?

Criminal justice, and specifically court funding, is important to the safety of our communities, and we have a moral obligation to ensure they are funded adequately to accomplish that goal. However, we cannot just “spend” our way to a solution. Instead, we need to have independent reviews on what works and doesn’t work and strive to ensure that we have an efficient system in place that meets all the needs of our communities.