Harris and Gizzi draw clear lines on CRC, marriage and marijuana
Saturday, October 6, 2012
City of residence: Vancouver
Occupation: Owner of Quick Collect Inc., a health care collection agency
Campaign website: http://electharris.com
Major endorsements: Association of Washington Business, Washington State Medical Association, the Washington Education Association, Clark County Realtors
Money raised in campaign: $79,804
City of residence: Battle Ground
Occupation: electrical engineer and businessman
Campaign website: http://jimgizzi.com
Major endorsements: Former Clark County Commissioner Betty Sue Morris, former Vancouver Mayor Royce Pollard, former legislator Deb Wallace, Clark County Commissioner Steve Stuart, Washington Organization of Vocational Educators
Money raised in campaign: $44,459
First-term legislator Paul Harris, R-Vancouver, is defending his seat this fall from political newcomer Jim Gizzi, a Democrat. The two will face off in Clark County's 17th District for the Position 2 House seat.
Harris and Gizzi disagreed on the Columbia River Crossing's major points of contention during a recent visit with The Columbian's editorial board. They also disagreed on ballot measures that would legalize recreational marijuana use and allow same-sex couples to marry. Ballots in the Nov. 6 general election will be mailed to voters on Oct. 15.
On the Columbia River Crossing, Gizzi said he supports the CRC, supports putting a light rail line on the bridge, and supports tolls to help pay for the project. The proposed $3.5 billion CRC project would replace the Interstate 5 Bridge, extend light rail to Clark College, and rebuild freeway interchanges on both sides of the Columbia River
"The purpose of the bridge is clearly to improve the existing structure," Gizzi said. "From a seismic standpoint, it doesn't measure up. From a traffic standpoint, it doesn't measure up. … I think we'd all look pretty foolish if three weeks from now we do have a major seismic event, and the bridge is no longer serviceable."
Light rail construction costs will be covered by the federal government, Gizzi said, so it would be a mistake for Washington state to reject bringing Portland's robust light rail system across the river. He also said he disagrees with the argument that light rail would bring more crime to Vancouver.
"I don't think a guy's going to steal a TV and jump in a train," Gizzi said. "Crime comes across in cars, and anyone that wants to get across (the river) can get across now. I don't think the crime issue is a real issue."
Meanwhile, Harris didn't appear supportive of the CRC.
"The bridge is safe, right now," Harris said, adding that he's "not a fan of light rail. I don't believe we have the density for light rail in our community right at this time, nor do I see it in the next 10 to 15 to 20 years. I believe it's a drain."
High-speed buses would be a better transportation option over the bridge than a light rail line, Harris said. He also said that if tolls are created to help pay for the CRC, then Washingtonians commuting to work in Oregon shouldn't have to pay the toll.
"Clark County citizens that work in Oregon and pay 10 percent income tax should get a tax credit of $2,000 for tolls from Oregon state," Harris wrote in response to The Columbian's 2012 legislative candidate survey. "We need to stand up to Oregon for our commuters."
If re-elected, Harris said, he would like to leave one of his current committees and be placed on the House Transportation Committee.
On education, the two candidates have some things in common. They both said they would raise taxes -- but only as a last resort -- in order to comply with the State Supreme Court's McCleary decision. The January court ruling determined that the state was not paying enough toward basic education in K-12 schools.
"We're going to have to make tax system changes to accommodate the Supreme Court ruling," Gizzi said. "I think that's just a given."
Harris said he's open to tax increases, adding: "Is it where I would go first? No. Is it where I would go last? Absolutely."
Harris said state lawmakers need to prioritize spending to pay more for education, but the first battle that needs to take place in the Legislature is figuring out exactly what basic education looks like. Then, that basic quality of education must be available to all schools in the state, Harris said.
Gizzi agreed that the state should do more to fully fund education. Both candidates also agreed that it's unfair to make schools rely on levy or bond increases in order to cover children's basic education needs.
Gizzi and Harris both oppose Initiative 1240, which would allow charter schools in Washington. Gizzi called himself a "staunch" opponent of the initiative, while Harris said he could support it if it were tweaked to include more oversight for charter schools.
"This initiative allows for legislators to establish a board which is not elected," Harris said. "When you have a nonprofit with unelected officials taking state funds that would go to schools, I am not in support of that. And that is the only reason."
Harris said he opposes Referendum 74, which, if approved, would allow same-sex couples in Washington to get married. Harris said he opposes the ballot measure because a majority of his constituents who contacted him on the issue said they oppose same-sex marriage.
Gizzi said he supports the referendum.
"Using popularity to determine whether or not we're going to support a minority is a big mistake," Gizzi said. "It's a civil rights issue that I'll support."
Harris opposes Initiative 502, which would make recreational marijuana use legal for adults age 21 and older. Gizzi supports the initiative.
"The amount of money we spend on incarcerating and on prosecuting folks that make use of recreational marijuana is a crime itself," Gizzi said. "We can gain revenues through taxing this drug, and I think we should."
Ballots for the Nov. 6 general election will be mailed to voters on Oct. 15. State legislators earn an annual salary of $42,106, plus a $90 a day allowance to cover expenses such as food and lodging while on state business.