You can watch our video of the entire 32nd District Town Hall meeting here.
Two Washington State legislators representing the 32nd District — which includes a good chunk of Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace as well as the Town of Woodway — held a lively exchange with about 100 constituents gathered for a Town Hall meeting at the Shoreline Fire Department Saturday afternoon.
State Sen. Maralyn Chase and Rep. Cindy Ryu offered their views on pressing legislative matters, including the challenge of trying to balance the state budget while also meeting the State Supreme Court mandate to fully fund basic education.
Ryu also took a jab at State Sen. Marko Liias — a fellow Democrat who represents portions of Edmonds and Lynnwood located in the neighboring 21st District — for his support of SB 5899, which would re-shape the state’s payday loan regulations to allow longer-term borrowing.
“If you know Marko Liias, go slap him up the side of the head,” Ryu said. “What was he thinking? There are all sorts of rumors going on that he is running for higher office, that he got money from the Money Tree folks.”
Ryu went on to say that while she thinks that Liias and other SB 5899 supporters “truly believe it’s good for the people – I don’t.” During a 21st District Town Hall meeting held Saturday morning in Lynnwood, Liias acknowledged the contentious debate in the Senate regarding SB 5899. Responding to a question from Keith Skore of Faith Action Network, Liias said that his decision to support the bill was based on his conviction that of all the possible approaches, the bill provided the least-cost impact on users of payday loan services.
(You can read more about the payday lending issue in a story by our online news partner The Seattle Times here.)
Other issues addressed by the Chase and Ryu included:
HB 2147, which would impose new conditions on the Boeing Company’s multibillion-dollar tax break: Ryu and Chase both said they support the bill, which requires Boeing to maintain certain job levels to keep the tax breaks the company originally received in 2009 and were extended in 2013. “There is no question” that Boeing is going to move more of its workers out of state, Chase said, and the company is now “a global corporation. They are no longer a Washington corporation.” Chase said she would rather focus on ensuring that community-based businesses are successful, “and not be so dependent on anything Boeing says.”
Ongoing work to improve the safety of coal and oil trains traveling through Puget Sound. Ryu mentioned a bill that would require BNSF to have two additional engineers present on trains carrying these materials, so that they can uncouple cars in case of an accident. “I’m definitely for making sure that they have much more stringent laws and regulations,” Ryu said. Noting the number of oil train accidents reported lately, Chase added: “It’s only a matter of time before we start losing hundreds of people, when they (the trains) come off the tracks.”
Income inequality: Chase started her presentation by declaring that the economic recovery is an illusion to 99 percent of the population, which has seen their income fall by 3.4 percent while the top 1 percent saw income growth of more than 200 percent. Thirty-six percent of children in the Edmonds School District and 26 percent from the Shoreline District come from “families in poverty,” as indicated by their qualification for free or reduced school lunch, she said. “Our tax system is built upon consumers having enough disposable icome in their pokets so they can go shopping and pay sales taxes,” Chase said. “Our people are not makig enough money to be able to go shopping. So our system is broken.”
Raising the minimum wage: While both Ryu and Chase said that they support efforts to raise the minimum wage, Chase said that such an effort is not going to solve the income inequality problem. “People are not being paid enough money to make this tax system work,” Chase said. Even if people made $19.67 an hour — the state’s current median wage — that translates into a maximum of $1,030 a month that can be spent on housing. “That is not enough to sustain a family,” she said.
Several of those attending also told legislators they were worried about the impact of Sound Transit’s light rail extension from Northgate to Lynnwood — with stations planned for Shoreline and Mountlake Terrace — on surrounding neighborhoods, due to increased traffic and housing density. Chase promised that she would start becoming more active regarding that issue as she is concerned about the effects on her neighborhood as well.