By Arwyn Rice
Peninsula Daily News
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An earlier version of this article misstated a quote from Tharinger.
SEQUIM — Incumbent state Rep. Steve Tharinger, D-Sequim, and challenger Thomas Greisamer, R-Moclips, sparred Sunday over taxes, education funding and business regulation at a first-round debate to win over voters in their bids for a 24th Legislative District seat.
Tharinger and Greisamer are vying for the Position 2 seat for the district, which covers Clallam and Jefferson counties and a portion of Grays Harbor County, in the Nov. 4 general election.
Tharinger, 65, a former small-business owner and Clallam County commissioner, is seeking a third two-year term.
“We need to base decisions on hard science and data, not myth and anecdote,” he said during the Clallam County League of Women Voters forum at the Shipley Center.
Greisamer, 73, a retired forensic psychiatrist who last worked for the state Department of Corrections, is seeking office for the first time.
“Government is too big a part of our lives. We need to simplify regulations,” he said.
Tharinger said voters need to reject the “new myth” that you get something for nothing, and that in order for the state to do the job it has been asked to do by the people, it needs to be properly funded — but that the funding needs to be carried out more efficiently and equitably than in the current system.
Many services have suffered, he said, including massive cuts to the state parks system and serious funding deficiencies for mental health care services and education.
Roads cannot be left to deteriorate until it becomes difficult for businesses to get their products to customers, he said.
Modern Americans are still the beneficiaries of the Greatest Generation, he said, a generation that instituted a high income tax, including a 90 percent tax on their top earners which resulted in highways, bridges, dams and many of the buildings still used today.
“We are stronger when we work together,” he said.
Greisamer said he agreed there needs to be investment in schools, roads and infrastructure, but said that the amount of money provided now can do the job as long as it is used efficiently.
He said instead of closing parks or cutting services at the lower levels when budgets are reduced in a recession, one or two high-level administrators can be let go.
“They close the things that are most visible and take it out of the hides of the people,” he said.
Both supported changes at the schools but differed on how those changes should be made.
Tharinger said the state needs to continue restoring funding to the schools, as ordered by the State Supreme Court.
“Washington state education funding is $800 per student behind Alabama. I don't think we want to be behind Alabama,” he said.
The additional money is needed to hire teachers in order to decrease class sizes, he said.
Greisamer argued that the schools have plenty of money, but that it is misused or used inefficiently.
“The teachers have had no cost of living adjustment or raise in six years,” Greisamer said.
Control of education needs to be taken away from the federal government and returned to local communities, and school should be held year-round, with the long summer vacation eliminated, he said.
Tharinger and Greisamer disagreed on the need for regulating businesses.
“Regulation is where democracy meets the workplace,” Tharinger said.
It needs to be efficient and accountable, he said.
Greisamer said he sees regulation as a barrier to businesses being successful.
Regulations are an indirect tax, as business owners are forced to pay for studies and permits in order to do business, he said.
“It slows down progress,” he said.
Both said they respect the Navy's position against barges in the Hood Canal from the proposed “pit-to-pier” gravel mining project, both for security and bridge safety reasons in regard to the Navy's submarine base at Bangor.
Thorndyke Resources Operation Complex, affiliated with Hood Canal Sand and Gravel, wants to build a 998-foot pier on state-owned tidelands 5 miles south of the Hood Canal Bridge to annually load onto barges some 6.75 million tons of gravel that would be transported via a 4-mile-long conveyor belt from a quarry at Shine.
However, Greisamer said the risk is overstated.
“Barges go up and down the Mississippi River. Risk can be mitigated,” Greisamer said.
The league will announce other general election forums by Sept. 1, according to a new release.
Reporter Arwyn Rice can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5070, or at email@example.com.