WCTA Government Affairs Committee Meets with Senator Liias

Senator Marko Liias
Senator Marko Liias

August 12, 2014 (Seattle, WA) – The decisions that voters make this year will have more dramatic implications on state government than normal, State Senator Marko Liias told the WCTA. If Democrats control the legislature—or voters insist on the development of a moderate Republican faction, important decisions will be made and things will get done. If the legislature stays as divided as is has been, we will face continual impasses on important issues such as education funding, research & development, and climate.

Voters need to reward politicians that want to get things done and punish those that done, he said.

The Washington Clean Technology Alliance Government Affairs Committee had a fine conversation with Senator Marko Liias (D-21) on August 5, 2014. Senator Liias represents Edmonds, Everett, Lynnwood, and Mukilteo.

Senator Liias received his bachelor’s degree from Georgetown. He has worked as a freelance journalist, communications advisor, and as a small business owner. For five years, Marko helped lead a small family business specializing in green residential construction. It was his involvement in the local chamber of commerce that led Marko to consider public service.

In 2005, he was elected to the Mukilteo City Council. In 2008, Marko was appointed to the State House. He has focused on policies to advance a strong economy based on good-paying jobs, a safe and quality education system, and a balanced transportation system that serves the whole community. After six years in the House, he was appointed to the Senate this year and is running for election. He is a member of the Trade & Economic Development Committee.

Sen. Liias works as a volunteer with the Kamiak High School Debate Program, as a board member of the Youth Suicide Prevention Program, and as a member of the Transportation Choices Coalition.

Senator Liias addressed a number of issues in the hour long discussion:

Research & Development Tax Credits: Senator Liias predicted that, if the credits are extended in the next session, they will be in a different form. He said that the Legislature needs more data on the effectiveness of these programs.

Carbon Pricing: Senator Liias is an advocate of a market-based approach to reducing carbon. He is an advocate of the philosophy that we “can make money—and do the right thing.” He said that he believed that carbon tax policies were a more elegant solution, but he was an “agnostic”—he will support any policies that work. In the end, he believes, the private sector, with government influence, will be the best source of solutions.

The committee questioned the Senator on transportation issues. Most of the state’s carbon emissions are from transportation sources. There was concern that policy makers will focus on electricity generation, which is a relatively small source of carbon emissions in this state.

Education: A good deal of the discussion focused on the difficulties of meeting the State Supreme Court’s requirement that the state meet its constitutional obligation of fully funding basic education in the McCleary decision. These obligations might total billions of dollars in new funding for the state.

The Senator discussed the need for new funding sources to meet these needs and the potential for significantly better educational outcomes as a result of the process through new initiatives such as STEM funding and smaller class sizes for early education.

Business, he said, needs to be part of the discussion and decision-making. The implications of those decisions will be significant on other budget issues that more directly impact business such as R&D tax credits, higher education, the clean energy fund, and funding of the Department of Commerce.