District 47 town hall with legislators in Covington draws large crowd | Slide Show

A town hall meeting was the top entertainment recently in Covington with the 47th-District legislators from Olympia presenting some good news and some troubling predictions.

  • Saturday, March 19, 2011 10:49pm
  • News
Katherine Ulbricht

Katherine Ulbricht

A town hall meeting was the top entertainment recently in Covington with the 47th-District legislators from Olympia presenting some good news and some troubling predictions.

Cutter’s Point coffee shop was packed with more than 70 people March 12 who spent 90 minutes listening and asking questions of the representatives, Pat Sullivan, Democrat and Mark Hargrove, Republican and state Senator Joe Fain, Republican.

Both Fain and Hargrove are first-time legislators, while Sullivan has been around the block, serving his fourth term in the House. Sullivan was elected to the majority leader position for his caucus this term.

The three fielded questions on an array of topics including education, unions, the state of the budget and health care.

Fain got the ball rolling early by letting the group know the legislators are expecting the newest economic numbers to kick another $1 billion or more hole in the budget, which is already suffering from about a $5 billion deficit.

Sullivan noted this biennial budget will be “the first time since the depression we will have a smaller budget than the previous (biennial budget.)”

A question was asked about increasing state revenues and Hargrove answered by stating, “The people spoke loudly and clearly (in the) last election. We have to have a two-thirds vote to increase taxes.”

There was considerable discussion concerning tax loopholes. Fain pointed out what many call loopholes are really at times more clearly defined as not taxing certain services.

“I don’t want people to walk away thinking there is a panacea for loopholes,” Fain said.

Sullivan said many loopholes are tax incentives, like breaks for first-time homeowners. Sullivan also pointed out the state does not tax food, which could be considered a loophole. He said he doubted many people would want to close that loophole and begin taxing food.

A question about the state’s Basic Health program was answered by Fain who stated he thought the program saved the state and citizens money.

“To get us through the rough times there are going to be some adjustments,” Fain said. “But talk of eliminating the basic health system is bad.”

Hargorve said, “We’ve gotten used to the government taking care of so many things. But when we come out the other side we will be leaner. (When) we see our neighbor in trouble, we the people are going to have to step in and help.”

Sullivan said if the state eliminated the basic health program then people will “show up in the emergency room and we all pay for that… It’s a puzzle we are putting together. When we put it together, people will die if we do it wrong.”

The three also discussed education funding, including early learning.

Sullivan said he felt we put “enormous amounts of money into remediation, keeping kids in school.”

He supports funding early learning, “I thing we are doing it backwards.”

Fain echoed Sullivan’s comments when he stated, “early dollars in early education pays dividends down the road.”

Hargrove is a strong supporter of innovative schools where “parents and teachers can create the schools best suited for students.”

Contact: Reach editor Dennis Box at dbox@kentreporter.com or 253-872-6600 ext. 5050.

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