How to balance state budget weighs heavily on minds of 21st District legislators

Marko Liias
Mary Helen Roberts
Paull Shin

The tone was generally respectful but there was a common theme in the remarks of those who came to the microphone during the 21st Legislative District town hall forum in downtown Edmonds Saturday afternoon: We know that balancing the state budget will be hard during tough economic times, but do your best to protect the most vulnerable.

Lawmakers must make significant budget cuts of about $1.1 billion, which “adds up to a lot of programs that have significant worth to lots of our children and individuals in this state,” State Rep. Mary Helen Roberts said.

Comments and questions from those who came to the microphone reflected the same concerns,  with heartfelt stories shared by those who work with school children, seniors and the developmentally disabled.

Mountlake Terrace High School teacher Andi Nofziger-Meadows, who serves as president of the Edmonds Education Association, talked about volunteering in the classroom of her kindergarten son. “A little boy who sits at Matthew’s table  and his brother were found going through the garbage cans last Friday, looking for food, because they didn’t have any and it was a long weekend.” she said, her voice breaking. “So we need money for social services in the schools, we need money for smaller class sizes. We’re at the breaking point and we need your help.”

Both Nofziger-Meadows and Edmonds Education Association Vice President Bill Van Wyck, a teacher at Edmonds-Woodway High school,  also expressed concerns about a teacher evaluation system moving through the Legislature that would evaluate teachers based on student test data. The Edmond School Board –not state legislators — should be determining how their teachers are evaluated, Van Wyck said.

Parents and school teachers alike urged lawmakers to prioritize education funding. One parent in particular — Deb Johnson,  mother of an Edmonds-Woodway High School musician and executive director of the Edmonds Public Schools Foundation– urged legislators to value the arts as much as they value other educational opportunities for students. Noting that the foundation will be holding its annual fund-raising breakfast March 23 at Mountlake Terrace High School — site of the district’s new science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) program — Johnson said she would like to see support for STEAM, adding an “A” for arts to the acronym.

State Rep. Marko Liias said he wakes up each morning thinking about two priorities –” balancing the state budget and getting people back to work.” He noted that the Legislature has already made $10.5 billion in state budget cuts over past three years, and one quarter of that has come from K-12 education. With another $1.1 billion to cut, it’s important that legislators look at revenue opportunities as well, Liias said.

There was one point of controversy, although that too was respectful. Liias mentioned — to audience applause — that he was  particularly proud of Legislature’s efforts to pass the marriage equality act. Later in the meeting, in response to a constituent question on marriage equality, Sen. Paull Shin explained why he voted against the same-sex marriage bill. “I grew up in a Christian family and was taught the principles of a Christian faith,” Shin said. Calling it a matter of conscience, Shin said “it was very hard for me to vote yes on this. I know that many of you were disappointed but I had to do what I needed to do.”

Roberts said it was evident based on the types of questions being asked at the Edmonds meeting, “that many of you have sympathy” regarding the Legislature’s budget challenges and needs of those less fortunate. “But you’d be amazed at the mail we get that says, ‘What is your problem? Why don’t you just get rid of the waste and fraud and the abuse?”



  1. I still wonder why they haven’t rescinded the sales tax exemption enjoyed by the Canadian Corp. that owns and operates the TransAlta coal plant in Centralia. The coal used to come from Black Diamond and other WA communities but does not any more. The sales tax exemption on this out of state coal amounts to almost $4m/year! Why are we subsidizing a Canadian corporation that is foulding our air with out of state coal. I really want to know but was not able to mnake the town hall mtg. yesterday.

  2. Even Jesus, whoever he was, was purported to have some common sense when he said “the poor will always be with us.” Note to Rep. Liias: It’s not your job to create jobs. Please show me anything instructing you to do so. Note to Roberts and Shin: It’s not the job of government to feed people. Promote the general welfare never meant feed people it meant provide a civilized society free from tyranny and disorder. Somalia does not promote the general welfare, nor does North Korea nor Syria. Government is the problem when it decides to become something it’s not and our government is doing us all harm by engaging in activities it shouldn’t. If you you have any doubts why Canada is projected to completely eliminate it’s national debt within 5 years and we won’t then you’ve missed the point. The United States is sinking in heartfelt stories just as our state is too. Life expectancy is greater in Canada and infant mortality is lower. Our state needs to first get it’s financial house in order and then it can listen to heartfelt stories. If it doesn’t it will have a heart attack.

  3. Mr. Shin:

    Haven’t you heard about separation of church and state? Your religion does not and should not affect me and, the fact that you make decisions based on your religion is problematic, at best. I was brought up a Hindu and consider myself an atheist. Are you telling me that your Christian values supersede mine? Please stop calling yourself a Democrat. You are an embarrassment to me.

  4. The separation of church and state means there is no government sponsored church. That does not mean freedom from religion. Most of us base our decisions on our conscience whether it is formed by Christian, Hindu or atheistic beliefs.

  5. Thank you Ms. Chase!

    It is unfortunate that some think others are not allowed to vote their conscience and that all conscience based decisions should be banned or abolished. All of our decisions are obviously based on our conscience whether they embarrass others or ourselves.

    Mr. Shinn is entitled to his conscience based decisions, as are we all, that is the beauty of this great country we call the USA!

  6. But, by making a decision based on religion that is not necessarily a tenant of all religions, mine included, the government is sponsoring a church or the tenants of a church.

    Yes, as individuals we have the right to practice our religions as we wish. However, as a representative, Mr. Shin represents all of us…not just Christians.

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