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Angel, Abel cite business and job growth as campaign priorities
With a little over a month remaining before the election, Kim Abel and Jan Angel got down to business.
During a candidates forum on Thursday morning at the Harbor Place at Cottesmore retirement community in Gig Harbor, Abel and Angel both cited business and job creation as the foundations of their campaign to fill the retiring Rep. Pat Lantz’s 26th District seat in the state House of Representatives.
“My biggest issue is local jobs,” said Abel, Port Orchard’s mayor from 2004 to 2008. “It’s a real hardship for people in our district because we essentially live on an island. When they have to commute across the bridge or by using a ferry to their jobs elsewhere, it creates an added expense when they’re already struggling.”
Abel promised she would attack the problem by doing more to help create family-wage jobs on this side of the water.
“We need to provide incentives for business,” she said. “Building up small businesses is the easiest way to promote economic development.”
Angel, meanwhile, cited her more than 30 years in private business as perhaps her most important qualification for the post — even more than her two terms as South Kitsap commissioner.
“I have the support of every local business organization, and I’m very proud of that,” she said. “We have a state that is very unfriendly to businesses, and what better way to change that environment than by sending someone with a strong business background to Olympia.”
Rather than offering incentives to certain businesses, however, Angel prefers reducing the regulatory burden on all companies.
“The (business and occupation) tax has got to go,” she said. “Considering the deficit the state is currently running, I’m not saying it could be eliminated overnight, but the point is, the best way to improve a state’s economic well-being is by generating more jobs. And you don’t do that by driving companies out of business with high taxes and more regulations.”
Abel countered that, as mayor, she had reduced regulations in Port Orchard and made the city more efficient.
“As a mayor, you have to get things done,” she said. “And I got things done in Port Orchard. You have to make tough choices sometimes and do things that aren’t popular, but we were able to do those things in Port Orchard.
“We also know we have to make changes in this state,” Abel said, “and I’ve shown I know how to do that.”
Again sounding the business theme, Angel agreed changes need to be made in Olympia.
“We need to change the governing culture down there,” she said. “Coming from a business background, I understand that when you’re not generating as much revenue as you’d like, you can’t just go back and charge your customers more. You have to cut your own expenses and be more efficient.
“As a state legislator,” Angel said, “I won’t just raise taxes to make up the deficit. People have told us loud and clear that their taxes are too high already. We’ll have to spend less — and spend it more wisely.”
On specific issues:
• State income tax. Angel said she’s dead set against an income tax. “The way our tax system is currently set up, using a sales tax, you’re taxed based on consumption,” she said. “An income tax would actually punish productivity. That’s not how you persuade people to work harder and become more productive.”
Abel said she personally would not favor an income tax, but concedes it might be something the state is forced to consider.
“Whatever we decide has to come from the people, not the Legislature,” she said. “We know there are certain things that have to be funded and we have to find a way to do that. If the voters decide an income tax is the way to go, that’s what we’d do — although I wouldn’t necessarily want to.”
• Transportation. Angel said, “There’s no silver bullet for transportation funding. It’s something we need to do, and yet there doesn’t seem to be any money to do it.
“Before I ask the taxpayers to pay another dime,” she said, “I’d want to know everything that’s going on in the Department of Transportation. People don’t like paying higher gas taxes, but it’s worth it if they see that roads are being built and maintained the way they’re supposed to. What they resent is when that money is used for some other purpose than what they were promised.”
Abel agreed transportation funding is a problem and suggested other projects might have to consider the implementation of tolls on certain stretches of road.
“If people in the 26th District have to pay a toll to cross the (Tacoma) Narrows Bridge,” she said, “I don’t see why people who cross the Viaduct in Seattle shouldn’t also have to pay a toll.”
• The Bethel corridor. Abel said the lack of development in what should be the commercial hub of South Kitsap reflected badly on Angel’s tenure as South Kitsap commissioner.
“She was commissioner for eight years, and that project is right in the center of her district,” Abel said. “Something should have been done long ago.”
Angel responded that, “The Bethel corridor project lost out because my predecessor in the job (former commissioner Charlotte Garrido, who served one term from 1996 to 2000 and is the current Democratic nominee to succeed Angel) put a vision in place that made no provision for funding. And no matter how grand your plan is, you can’t do anything without money.”