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Bailey, Norton offer clear choices in race

There’s no confusing Republican State Rep. Barbara Bailey with her Democrat rival, Mark Norton.

They have some very different views on issues affecting the Tenth Legislative District that run along party lines, with just a few surprises thrown in.

Bailey, a North Whidbey resident, said her top priorities are jobs and the economy. She wants to help make the state more business friendly by lessening the burden of regulations and continuing tax incentives for business.

“If we make the state a better place for business,” she said, “we make it better for all of us.”

Norton said health care should be a top priority for politicians in all levels of government, but some of his ideas may not sit well with all business leaders. He said the state should mandate medium and large employers to provide health insurance for their employees.

“I realize the business community is going to sneer at this,” he said, “but we need to tell them that they should be in the forefront of this thing. They can help shape it.”

Also, he said providers should have to bid on both subsidized and unsubsidized plans. And he’s in favor of importing drugs from Canada “if that’s what it takes.”

“Some of our senior citizens need to make a choice between paying the electrical bill or buying medicine,” he said. “It’s not right. Not in America. Not in 2004.”

Bailey and Norton also have very different views on taxes and what to do about the anticipated $1 billion shortfall in the state’s budget.

Bailey said she’s against raising taxes. “It’s not a good climate to try to do tax increases,” she said. “The economy is starting to get going again.”

She said she is in favor of controlling both spending and the expansion of government. She said items in the state budget should be prioritized before cuts are made, but she’s not sure if and where they should come.

“We have some very hard choices to make going forward...” she said. “I really don’t know until we get there and see what the options are.”

Norton said the long-term solutions to the budget problems are performance audits. “Performance audit of state agencies is good way to determine if money is being utilized appropriately,” he said.

What may be unique about Norton’s position is that he feels the performance audits should extend to tax cuts and incentives for business. He said tax loopholes should be closed if the state isn’t getting a return on its investment.

In the short term, Norton said some cuts are needed to get the budget under control, but he hopes to protect the elderly and children from the chopping block. “We need to help those who can’t help themselves,” he said.

While he doesn’t want to see tax increases, Norton said it may be inevitable. He called the $30 vehicle excise tax “ridiculously low” and said an extra $20 could be easily tacked on.

On the other hand, Norton is in favor of re-doing the state’s B & O tax because he feels such a tax — on gross receipts — it’s unfair to some types of businesses.

Neither Norton nor Bailey like the $5 parking fee at state parks, but they have different ideas on what to do about it. Bailey, the incumbent, said implementing the fee was “a really, really difficult decision” and she’s hopeful that it can be eliminated in the next budget.

Norton said he dislikes user fees because they affect low-income folks disproportionately. “If we rule out park fees, it may cost $1 a home per year in property taxes,” he said. “I’m willing to do that.”

On the subject of transportation, Bailey said she’ll work to get funding to alleviate traffic congestion in Oak Harbor, as well as other trouble spots. Norton said he’s a big supporter of mass transit and alternative forms of transportation.

He suggested opening high-occupancy vehicle lanes to hybrid-fuel cars and doing other things to encourage car pools.

Norton agrees with many rural residents that proposed new regulations regarding septic tank inspections are “too onerous” and even “goofy.”

“I can’t imagine who’s behind that,” he said. “It’s ludicrous. Enough of government agencies creating rules without regard for real-world results.”

Bailey said simply that a balance has to be found between protecting the environment and creating too much regulation.

One thing both candidates do agree on is the issue of abortion, which could conceivably because a state issue if Roe v Wade is overturned. They both said the government should not intrude on a woman’s right to choose.

You can reach Jessie Stensland at jstensland@whidbeynewstimes.com or 675-6611.

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