Democrat Erin Frasier, a workforce development professional who lives in Pe Ell, is challenging incumbent Republican Jim Walsh, who was elected in 2016 and owns and operates his own publishing company, for a seat representing the 19th District in the state House of Representatives.
Both candidates recently sat with with members of the editorial board of The Daily World to discuss some of the issues facing the district in the upcoming Legislative session.
“Erin supports a capital gains tax,” said Walsh, adding that any new taxes against small businesses in the region could be disastrous.
“I would consider a capital gains tax,” answered Frasier. She said “we’ll never progress” if the state’s tax structure isn’t addressed, and the sales tax model poses an unequal burden on low income citizens, adding she does not support a state income tax.
Walsh said he didn’t see any changes in the state’s abortion laws in the future, but said there should be a focus on funding.
“There’s practical and moral problems when people are being forced into paying for the procedure with their tax money,” he said. “If we can get public money out of the procedure I think in Washington we don’t want to change any laws.”
Frasier said she thinks there should be a distinct separation between government in women’s health care.
“I think any care is not the place of the government,” she said. “It should be between the patient and provider.” She added, “I support the level of funding we have now.”
Walsh argued that public funding for medical procedures leads to government regulation. “When the government is funding a medical procedure, it’s (a matter of course that) the government is regulating that procedure.”
When the Legislature last year overwhelmingly approved exempting legislators from public records requests it created an outcry from the public and, in particular, the media. Walsh was very vocal in his opposition to the legislation, which was vetoed after intense pressure on Gov. Inslee.
“I believe there should be a protection of private identification information for legislators like there are for higher education and health care,” said Frasier. “Otherwise I believe legislators should be subject to the same public records request standards as everyone else.”
When asked why so many legislators from both sides of the aisle approved the legislation, Walsh said, “They were doing what they were told. There is too much of that,” adding the whole process was “not exactly a profile in courage.”
Initiative 1631, which would tax industry based on the amount of carbon emissions they create, “is a hideous initiative,” said Walsh. “It’s terrible for this state, and for this area.” He said it would create a significant jump in the gasoline tax, “which hits hardest for the people who can’t afford it,” and said PUD rates would rise across the board. He said the “governance of it is horrible,” a non-elected panel appointed by the governor who will decide how the carbon tax money is spent.
“I have concerns for what it will look like for Southwest Washington,” said Frasier. She said in the district’s mostly rural landscape, returns on the money collected for a carbon tax would likely not funnel back into the region. She added, “We need a cleaner environment, so I’m glad it’s out there and more people are talking about it.”
Walsh said, “The problem with global climate change is making changes locally doesn’t have an impact” as the major global polluters are outside of the U.S.
Walsh and Frasier have been vocal about their support for Pacific County oyster farmers who have been adversely affected by an infestation of invasive burrowing shrimp, which can render acres of oyster growing property unusable.
Recently the Department of Ecology banned the use of a certain pesticide used to control the shrimp. Walsh said there was no scientific basis for the ban, and Ecology turned away the oyster producers at every step of the process, denying them even small study areas to prove the pesticide was not harmful. Frasier said she would have supported allowing the continued use of the pesticide until a suitable alternative could be found.
“Making Grays Harbor Community Hospital into a public entity didn’t work as promised,” said Walsh. “When I agreed to give them my latest financial support I said, this is it for me, it’s not working. The Summit (Pacific Medical Center) cost-plus plan is working. We need more Summit.”
He said Community Hospital “has become an addict, and I don’t know what it will take to get them off the addiction. I want what’s best for the hospital, and the public entity was not what was best.”
Frasier talks about access to health care in more holistic terms.
“The focus usually centers around accessibility and there are many areas where access (to health care) means more than providers,” she said. Besides a shortage of doctors, impediments to getting care may just mean the challenges of life, especially for low income people, she said. Those areas can include transportation to and from appointments and inadequate Medicaid reimbursement, which means doctors won’t see patients on Medicaid, she said.