Candidates debate job creation, accepting federal money

Steve Tharinger, of Sequim, answers a question about funding schools at a debate Monday, Aug. 23. Sequim Gazette photos by Amanda Winters


Jim McEntire, of Sequim, makes his opening statements at a debate hosted by the Concerned Citizens of Clallam County on Monday, Aug. 23.


Candidates for two open state legislative seats debated health care, the state budget and the role of government in job creation Monday night, Aug. 23, at a debate hosted by the Concerned Citizens of Clallam County.

About 250 people filled the Sequim Boys & Girls Club gymnasium to hear candidates discuss state and local issues.

Present to debate were candidates for Position 1, Dan Gase of Port Angeles and incumbent Kevin Van De Wege of Sequim; and candidates for Position 2, Steve Tharinger and Jim McEntire, both of Sequim.

Gase, a Republican, pointed out in his opening statement what he believes are mistakes made by state elected officials. More than 6,000 state workers have been hired since Gov. Christine Gregoire took office and the state budget overestimates revenue and underestimates expenditures, he said.

Gase said Van De Wege "seems like a nice guy, a great fellow," but he can't imagine why Van De Wege "so naively" voted to repeal I-960, which requires a two-thirds vote to pass new taxes.

"(Van De Wege) needs to have some backbone and stand up for the people," he said.

In his opening statements Van De Wege, a Democrat, focused on his jobs platform.

"Creating jobs is the only way out (of the recession)," he said.

Van De Wege said there are things government can do to foster job creating in the private sector, such as the work he did to help Peninsula Plywood open in Port Angeles. He also sees biomass energy creation as a potential source of job growth on the peninsula, he said.

"It's not just political rhetoric," he said. "There are things you can do, touch, feel and people you can talk to who can say, 'I have a job.'"

McEntire, a Republican, disagreed with Van De Wege on the government's role in job creation.

"Government does not create jobs except for government jobs," he said. "The best thing for them to do is get out of the way."

McEntire said the economy comes first and as a Port of Port Angeles commissioner he was part of several projects, not all successful, to bring more revenue to the area.

"You have to risk capital to get rewards," he said.

Tharinger, a county commissioner, was not present for the first part of the debate due to a Clallam County Chemical Dependency and Mental Health board meeting.

In a prepared statement read at the meeting, he said he is proud to be part of the leadership that made Clallam County one of only two

counties in the state to be debt-free. The same fiscal responsibility and long-term budget outlook he has shown as a commissioner would go with him to the state level, he said.

"We need leadership," he said in the statement. "Not ideological simplicity."

One of the questions posed to the candidates involved the federal health care reform bill. Medicaid reimbursements will increase under the bill and federal money would be available to help pay for the increase. Would the candidates accept the federal money or would they use other means to pay for the increase?

Van De Wege said he would accept federal money.

"I would not support cutting services for Washington state residents to pay for a federal program," he said.

Gase agreed that Medicaid reimbursements aren't high enough but said he doesn't think the state should be reliant on federal funds.

Tharinger, who arrived just before the question was asked, said it was important to fund Medicaid and to change the medical system so it is outcome-based and not fee-based.

McEntire said the health care system does need to be reformed, but people need to move toward self-reliance and not dependence on government.

"These issues are complex," McEntire said. "But they're not all that complicated."

Later in the debate, Tharinger said McEntire has government health insurance yet talks about self-reliance.

"I earned it," McEntire responded.

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