As part of our endorsement process at The Urbanist, we ask candidates to complete a standard questionnaire to better understand and evaluate their positions on housing, land use, transportation, and other important issues. We then share this information with our readers to help inform their own voting decisions.
This year we are considering selected candidates running for US Congress, Washington State Legislature, and King County Prosecuting Attorney. Starting this week, we are publishing the questionnaires in full, concluding with our official general election endorsements in mid-October.
The following questionnaire was submitted by State Senator Rebecca Saldaña running for Legislative District 37, which covers the Central District, Southeast Seattle, Skyway, and Renton. Saldaña’s opponent, Beth Broadway (R-Seattle), did not submit a questionnaire.
Do you consider yourself an urbanist?
Do you support an income tax?
How do we keep Sound Transit 3 (ST3) timelines on track given that the Trump administration is slow-walking or eliminating grants for transit projects and construction costs are skyrocketing?
By protecting the ST3 funding package from the continued attacks at the state level; by working with Puget Sound Regional Council and local jurisdictions to align processes and permits to prevent delays; and by repealing I-200, so governments around the state can encourage competition of contractors by rebuilding a pipeline of diverse qualified contractors and construction workers.
What is your position on the Sound Transit car-tab tax? Would you support a plan that cuts Sound Transit’s budget?
No, I would not support a plan that cuts Sound Transit’s budget. While I am sympathetic to folks who experienced a spike in the car tab fee the difference between the two ways of valuation is a difference of $50-$70 for most individuals. The spike comes from the percentage of increase. Most folks in my district are most concerned with the property taxes not the car tabs; and given the uncertainty of our federal partner, we cannot afford to advance any plan that cuts ST.
How will you leverage state resources to increase affordable housing?
First we need to recognize the significant gains this past legislative session for housing priorities. Washington Low Income Housing Alliance provided a great summary on their website. We increased the document recording fee, and removed the sunset, and we increased the Housing Trust Fund. I am looking at ways that we can lower costs for each affordable housing application that goes before Department of Commerce. For instance, waive the need for each project to do its own independent housing market analysis. I am working with stakeholders and legislators to create a package of housing policy that includes incentives for faith-based organizations to develop their land for affordable housing, passing HB 2437 which would allow localities retain a portion of the state sales tax for affordable housing, and continuing to support and grow the new Healthy Housing program at the Department of Ecology that supports community engagement in mitigating contaminated sites to make them developable for affordable housing and local economic development.
Washington is ranked as having the most regressive tax code in the nation. Rich households pay a much lower effective tax rate than poor households. What, if anything, do you propose to do about that?
Too much of our tax burden rests on those least able to afford it. We know that we have the most regressive tax structure in the country. We need to stop relying on taxes that put a larger burden on low income and working families and fight to ensure the wealthiest among us pay their fair share to fund the services we all depend on. That’s why I voted against the property tax increases in 2017 and voted for the one-time Democratic property tax cut that homeowners will receive in 2019. Overall, we must introduce progressive taxation in order to fund our social, educational, health and public safety needs. I support a capital gains tax and a progressive Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) to hold those at the top accountable for paying their fair share. In addition, I support sunsetting corporate tax breaks that serve to only line the pockets of large, multinational corporations rather than investing those dollars in our community. I also support an equitable carbon revenue policy and the creation of a public infrastructure investment bank.
How should our state address climate change and would you back a carbon tax bill similar to what Governor Inslee has proposed?
We need to invest in protecting our communities against climate change. This means tackling the climate gap–lower-income people of color do the least to cause climate change but experience the worst impacts from current pollution and future impacts. Our state will successfully and sustainably reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by centering our policy on the leadership of communities impacted most and ensuring investments are made equitably. That’s why I support I-1631 which ensures that the proceeds of the carbon fees go to communities most impacted by climate change.
Additionally, I was a co-sponsor of SB 6203 which was the carbon tax bill that Governor Inslee proposed.
Would you vote to permit local transit agencies and police departments to implement camera enforcement of transit lanes in order to keep buses moving through traffic bottlenecks? Why or why not?
Yes, and I will want to make sure that we have strong contract standards in place between local government agencies, the Department of Licensing, and any vendors to ensure security of Washington residents’ data and privacy. That is why I will be working with the Department of Licensing on legislation to ensure we have the strongest data stewardship for all Washington residents.
How can we protect and preserve the open spaces in Washington State?
Support density in our current Growth Management Act, that includes supporting innovative, community-led developments along high capacity transit; and allowing affordable denser environmentally responsible housing in our current single family zones. This means fully funding the Model Toxics Control Act, reducing stormwater point source pollution, making state investments to remove or replace fish barriers, and better community-based forestry that would consider growing the local market for using wood composite in construction. And most urgently, we need to decrease our carbon pollution and ensure our economy is more green and just by passing I-1631. Passing I-1631 is a big part of moving Washington State in the right direction on fighting climate change.
What is your favorite mode of transportation and why?
Light rail and Metro’s number 36 and 7. But honestly, any mode where I am not behind the wheel driving.
The next time the state legislature crafts a major transportation funding package, what do you want to see in it?
I will want to see significant investments in infrastructure that supports multi-modal transportation choices and prioritizes modes that reduce air pollution and quality of life for all Washington residents. I want to see projects that incorporate smart design and climate resiliency into the construction, and support local workforces.