Similar background, different views for House candidates Stonier, Olson

By Stevie Mathieu, Columbian assistant metro editor

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photoJulie Olson
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Julie Olson's 2012 candidate survey

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Monica Stonier's 2012 candidate survey

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A Ridgefield School Board president and a teachers' coach are vying this fall for votes in Clark County's 17th Legislative District.

Republican Julie Olson and Democrat Monica Stonier will appear on the ballot for the Position 1 House race in that district. It's an open legislative seat being vacated by state Rep. Tim Probst, D-Vancouver, who decided to run against state Sen. Don Benton, R-Vancouver, rather than seek re-election.

Both House candidates share a background in education, oppose this fall's marijuana initiative, and say they won't raise taxes. They differ somewhat in their approaches to reforming education. They also differ when it comes to health care, job creation, and same-sex marriage.

Stonier, an instructional coach in the Evergreen school district, does not support Initiative 1185, which would require any tax increase posed by the Legislature to be approved by a two-thirds vote of the Legislature, rather than by a simple majority of more than half. Olson supports the ballot measure.

Stonier said she can't support the initiative because it would hinder lawmakers trying to close loopholes, not just those trying to raise taxes.

"The two-thirds requirement ties the hands of legislators and keeps them from doing the job they are elected to do," Stonier wrote in response to The Columbian's 2012 legislative candidate questionnaire. "I stand by my commitment to not raise taxes, and if I go back on my word, I know the voters in my district will respond accordingly in the next election."

On health care, Olson supports expanding Medicaid to more Washingtonians as outlined in the 2010 federal health care reforms -- with caveats.

"I support the expansion when we know we have enough providers to care for the new influx of Medicaid patients and we know how we are going to pay for it in 2019 when the states have to cover a larger portion of the costs," Olson wrote. "Medicaid costs are already (putting) a massive strain on the budget."

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled recently to mostly uphold the health care reform act, but it also ruled that each state can decide whether to participate in the law's Medicaid plan. Medicaid is a health insurance program that provides coverage for low-income people and the disabled.

Stonier said she supports the Medicaid expansion because "the increasing number of people on Medicaid in Washington will be mostly offset by federal funds. With most Washingtonians having health insurance, health care costs for all of us should be reduced, which will also help lower the cost of doing business in Washington state."

Ballot measures

Olson opposes C-Tran's Proposition 1, which would increase sales tax in the C-Tran district to pay for the operation and maintenance of light rail in Vancouver. Stonier supports the proposition.

Stonier and Olson agree that the Interstate 5 Bridge over the Columbia River needs to be replaced, but Olson does not want to see a light rail extension from Portland included on the bridge. Stonier has said that she thinks it would be smarter to pay for light rail on the bridge now rather than pay for a separate light rail project later. But she added: "as a representative of the people, I will honor the decision voters make" on Prop. 1.

Stonier supports Referendum 74, which would allow same-sex couples to marry. "I am proud that we continue to work toward equality in Washington," Stonier said.

Meanwhile, Olson does not support Referendum 74.

"I support the existing civil union law in Washington today, which I believe provides homosexual couples the same civil rights as heterosexual, married couples," Olson said. "I do not see the need to change the definition of marriage. I will ultimately respect the will of the voters."

Stonier and Olson both oppose a measure to legalize recreational marijuana use.

Jobs, education

To help create jobs, Stonier said the state should improve job training programs, provide business and occupancy (B&O) tax relief to companies that hire new employees, and work closely with larger businesses to entice them to move to Washington. B&O taxes are based on businesses' gross income rather than their profit.

Olson said the best thing Washington state can do to create jobs is get out of the way of businesses. She also said the state's industrial insurance system needs to be reformed because the Department of Labor and Industries, which currently offers such insurance, is harming businesses.

Olson supports merit-based pay for teachers and other educators, including principals and classified staff. She also supports this fall's ballot measure that would allow charter schools in the state. Olson was elected to the Ridgefield School Board in 2005.

Meanwhile, Stonier opposes the charter school initiative. She doesn't support any current plan to create merit-based pay for teachers, but she does support the evaluation plan recently approved by the state that allows schools to fire bad teachers for receiving multiple, unfavorable principal evaluations. Stonier previously worked as a language arts and social studies teacher at Pacific Middle School.

Both candidates agree that state dollars for K-12 education need to be spent more wisely.

"It will be incumbent on the Legislature to define 'basic education' and implement a funding system that is focused on student learning and desired outcomes," Olson said. "The first step is to remove the education budget from the general fund."

Meanwhile, Stonier said: "I plan to fund K-12 education by shifting the millions of tax dollars spent on the state test and standard writing directly to the classrooms." She also said she will support early-intervention programs that get students on the right path before their education problems become more costly to fix.

Olson and Stonier advanced in the Aug. 7 primary after each earning more votes than a third candidate in the race, Republican Matthew Homola.

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.

Stevie Mathieu: 360-735-4523 or stevie.mathieu@columbian.com or www.facebook.com/reportermathieu or www.twitter.com/col_politics

Julie Olson

Party: Republican.

City of residence: Ridgefield.

Age: 49.

Occupation: Sales and marketing manager in scientific and laboratory distribution.

Campaign website:http://www.votejulieolson.com/.

Major endorsements: Association of Washington Business, National Federation of Independent Businesses, Washington State Farm Bureau, Clark County Association of Realtors, Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs.

Money raised in campaign: $103,838.

Monica Stonier

Party: Democratic.

City of residence: Vancouver.

Age: 36.

Occupation: Instructional coach in the Evergreen school district

Campaign website:http://www.votemonicastonier.com/.

Major endorsements: Vancouver Firefighters local union 452, National Women's Political Caucus, League of Education Voters, Washington Education Association, Washington State Labor Council.

Money raised in campaign: $78,082.