The show of congeniality by Sens. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, and Kevin Ranker, D-Orcas Island, at a Bellingham/Whatcom Chamber of Commerce & Industry lunch did little to cover the enormous gap between their policy positions.
The two spoke to chamber members Thursday, Sept. 3, along with Reps. Vincent Buys and Luanne Van Werven, both Lynden Republicans. The two Democratic representatives for Whatcom County, Kristine Lytton, D-Anacortes, and Jeff Morris, D-Mount Vernon, were scheduled to appear but ended up canceling.
Ranker said he was disappointed the Legislature didn’t pass Gov. Jay Inslee’s carbon pollution bill, which would have charged fees to the industries in the state that release the most carbon dioxide, including the two oil refineries and the aluminum smelter on Cherry Point.
Ranker said he hoped that citizen initiatives now in the works would do what the Legislature couldn’t — put a price on carbon to discourage its use.
“I believe that if the leaders can’t lead, maybe the people should lead,” Ranker said.
Ericksen said creating taxes was the wrong way to reduce carbon, “if that’s what you’re concerned about.”
He touted his bill, which also failed, that would have created incentives for private businesses to invest in green technologies — for example, state ferries that run on liquified natural gas.
The senators also diverged on the out-of-session crisis the Legislature finds itself in, the state Supreme Court’s contempt order for failing to adequately fund public education.
The court has fined the Legislature $100,000 a day until it finds $3.5 billion more for schools, Ranker said.
A bipartisan panel came up with a package to enhance education, but the two parties couldn’t agree on how to pay for it. Ranker supported a capital gains tax on the state’s top 7,500 earners, along with Inslee’s carbon fees. Ericksen didn’t like either idea, and neither was approved by the split Legislature: Democrats control the House and Republicans hold sway in the Senate.
“Can you find two people in the Legislature who are pretty much polar opposites on every issue you can find?” Ericksen said. “But yet we can work through the partisanship aspects of it and have a relationship and be able to work on issues.”
This line got applause, even if Ericksen offered little evidence to support his statement.