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Eggs and Issues focus on tribes, schools and medical marijuana

BREMERTON — About 50 people filled the Cloverleaf during Tuesday’s Eggs and Issues to question the two contenders vying to represent the 23rd district of Washington.

State Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo) and her challenger, Republican Larry Cooney, who’s apparently “sick of it,” faced hot issues including the federally mandated tax exemption for Native American tribes, early childhood education, health and medical marijuana.

Each, according to Cooney, is part of the “broken system.”

Tribes and taxes

Concerned residents opened with questions concerning local tribes’ “veto power” on capital projects like the dock in Bremerton.

“Tribes are sovereign nations due to treaties at the federal level. If capital projects have to do with water issues, they have a say,” Appleton, 65, said. “Tribes do not have veto power on capital projects.”

Others were concerned about the fairness of the tribes being tax exempt and questioned their impact on the local economy.

Appleton said the local tribes, the Suquamish and Port Gamble S’Klallam, put about $56 million back into our local economy each year.

“The tribes do share,” she said. “Federally they do not have to share their gas taxes with us but they decided on their own to give back 25 cents off every dollar. That doesn’t sound like much but it adds up and they are coordinating with the county on road projects. ...I represent two tribes and I’m proud of it.”

In response, Cooney, 52, said he thought it must be easy for the tribes to secure profits before deciding to give some back.

“This isn’t a racial thing, this is a business policy issue,” he said. “To have a tax exemption for the tribes isn’t going to work.”

Cooney also added he doesn’t like the way tribal casinos influence the locale.

“Gaming is a horrendous industry,” Cooney said. “It employs people in the bars and jobs with minimum wages. This is not a glorious industry. It should cough up to benefit Washington state.”

Cooney said taxes should be fair for everyone but changed his story when a senior citizen told Appleton she thought the senior exemption rates were “totally unfair” and “too low.”

Cooney said he wants to do everything he can to decrease taxes.

“Taxes need to be looked at for the core essence of what we need,” he said. “The system is broken from the root.”

Appleton said she worked hard to lower exemption for single seniors to annual income of $24,000.

“You can’t just walk away from property taxes but you are forgiven until you sell the house or pass it on.”

Early childhood education

Appleton and Cooney were on separate sides of the argument for education.

In response to a question posed by Kitsap News Group columnist Adele Ferguson if teachers should be allowed to strike, Appleton said she supports teachers in every way, shape and form.

“They are our most important asset. They teach our children,” she said. “Strikes are civil disobedience. I don’t believe the education system is broken. We educate every child. ... Do teachers have the right to strike? Probably not, but the school district has to uphold their side.”

Cooney, who said he believes government takes on too much in the public school system said, “I don’t have a lot of confidence in the labor unions. They need to be made accountable.”

Cooney said he is for privatizing as much of Department of Health and Human Services as possible.

“It works and reduces taxes,” he said, adding, “I don’t believe in early childhood education. It’s government taking on too many social problems.”

At this point, an audience member said he had statistics that said early childhood development isn’t good for children and pulls them away from their mothers too early.

“You’ll find statistics can say anything,” said Appleton, adding the need to judge the source of the data.

Appleton said she stands by her decision for early childhood education as it creates better-skilled workers.

“It’s proven by the time children reach first grade, if they can’t read, they’ll never catch up,” she said.

Cooney, on the other hand said he is “dead-set against it” and those were only reasons that made it sound good.

Health and medical marijuana

In response to a question concerning medical marijuana, Appleton said she previously drafted a bill in support of legalizing it.

Although her draft wasn’t passed in legislature, she said if re-elected she would draft another.

With the proven help medical marijuana provides, Appleton said she would have given it to her husband, whom she lost to cancer, if it were legal.

“The nausea and pain that comes with chemotherapy, medical marijuana helps with that,” she said. “I would have given that to my husband.”

Cooney said he agrees with the benefits of medical marijuana and said he sees some “legitimate uses” for it including hemp protein. Overall, however, he said “the health system is broken and less people are covered by insurance.”

Appleton said she agreed health cost need to be reduced and more people need coverage.

“Flexibility is fine until (family members) are diagnosed with cancer or diabetes. What we need is coverage for everybody,” Appleton said to a round of applause.

Eggs and Issues will host North End Commissioner incumbent Steve Bauer and challenger Sandra LaCelle next Tuesday at 7:30 a.m. at the Cloverleaf Restaurant in Bremerton.

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