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Tharinger, Gale agree to disagree
by MARK ST.J. COUHIG
State Rep. Steve Tharinger, a Democrat, believes voters should support Referendum 74, thereby establishing the right of gays in Washington to marry.
“It expands civil rights,” he said. “It provides equal opportunity for people who love each other to get married.”
Tharinger said supporting gay marriage through his work in the Legislature has provided him with some of the “prouder moments” of his term in Olympia.
Republican Steve Gale, who is hoping to wrest from Tharinger his District 24, Position 2 seat in the statehouse, disagreed, stating flatly, “I reject Referendum 74 that redefines marriage.”
The two found several areas of disagreement — and a number of areas of agreement — when they met in a debate sponsored by the League of Women Voters of Clallam County at the Sequim Senior Activity Center on Sunday, Oct. 21.
Two fiscal conservatives
Both consider themselves fiscal conservatives, with Tharinger noting he’s already been called on to take part in cutting billions from the state budget. But cuts, he said, aren’t the long-term solution.
Instead the Legislature must take on the state’s antiquated revenue system. “We’re working with a 1984 structure,” he said, “while the population has doubled.
“We need to look at a fair and balanced tax structure,” he said, adding that in government the bottom line isn’t always the most important thing. “There are other issues, too,” he said.
Gale responded, saying, “I subscribe to the Laffer Curve. Smaller government allows people to better engage. Government’s gotten too big. It’s stifling the economy. People are struggling with the agencies.”
He said the trend has been toward higher taxes “rather than delivering value in services.”
Sequim’s Clare Hatler asked the two to comment on tax crusader Tim Eyman’s effort to pass Initiative 1185, which would extend for another two years the law that requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to raise taxes. The state’s voters approved similar initiatives in 2008 and 2010.
Tharinger and Gale split on the issue.
“I don’t support it,” Tharinger said. “It gives the power to 17 senators.”
“You can put in (tax) loopholes with a simple majority,” he said, but a handful of senators can prevent the passage of new taxes.
Gale supports the initiative, saying, “If an issue is so acute, the Legislature can do it. That’s their responsibility.”
Water, water everywhere
The two also split in the Dungeness Water Rule, which the Department of Ecology has announced will be formally promulgated in the second half of November.
Tharinger supports the rule, saying, “You haven’t been able to get a water right here in over 50 years.
That’s because there are conflicting rights. We figured out a mechanism that ensures you can get a water right. It gives predictability to water.”
Gale said the rule was a primary impetus for throwing his hat into the ring. The rule “is creating a crisis,” he said. “Ecology is limiting our freedom.”
He said the Legislature should provide better oversight of Ecology to ensure it’s following legislative intent and also said he would look further at the “value” the agency is delivering with its billion dollar-plus budget.
Back at it
The two will face off again tonight, Wednesday, Oct. 24, in a debate sponsored by the Concerned Citizens of Clallam County. The event, which begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Boys & Girls Clubs, also features a face-off between the two candidates for the District 24 Senate seat, incumbent Jim Hargrove and challenger Larry Carter.
Craig Durgan, who is challenging Rep. Kevin Van De Wege for his District 24, Position 1 seat, also will speak. Van De Wege is unable to attend.