Appleton, Cooney square off at debate

Candidates for 23rd District seat express differences.

The adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” came into play as Poulsbo Republican Larry Cooney and incumbent 23rd District state Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo) faced off at Tuesday’s Eggs and Issues candidate forum at the Cloverleaf Sports Bar and Grill in East Bremerton.

Cooney’s campaign signs ask, “Aren’t you sick of it?” On Tuesday Cooney explained that he is sick and tired of the way business in Olympia is done and that it’s time for a change.

Appleton said the state government isn’t necessarily broken, but there are definitely areas for improvement and increased efficiency.

“I think it’s an imperfect system,” she said.

Cooney’s chief priority, if elected, will be to significantly reduce taxes and relieve the burden on people who are already struggling to make ends meet, he said.

“We’re pushing them to the bottom of the barrel to DSHS (Department of Social and Human Services), and it doesn’t help these folks,” said Cooney, who is the executive director of the Bread of Life Mission in Seattle.

Instead of the government being the sole provider of those services, faith-based organizations and other nonprofits should be encouraged to help in those areas, he said.

While supporting the role of faith-based organizations and other non-profits in providing some social services, Appleton said the government has a responsibility to provide for the health, safety and welfare of its citizens, and social services is part of meeting those responsibilities.

Cooney also attacked the state’s funding of early childhood education as he said that he has seen numerous studies, which say such programs are ineffective.

Appleton, who has been an advocate of such programs in the Legislature, rebuffed Cooney’s criticism and said that early childhood education programs do make a difference in children’s lives.

“If a child can’t read by first grade, they never catch up,” she said.

On the issue of the anticipated $2.7 billion deficit facing the state in the next legislative session, Appleton and Cooney offered different approaches to balancing the state’s books.

Cooney said he would effectively gut DSHS and look for spending cuts across the board to overcome the deficit.

Appleton said currently the state is losing out on $9 billion in revenue annually because of loop holes in its tax code.

“We need to close the loop holes first and then we should have enough money,” she said.

The Bremerton chamber has taken a stance on affordability and flexibility for health insurance in the state and Cooney told the audience he supported every line of the chamber’s stance, while Appleton expressed her support for affordability, but caution on flexibility.

“Flexibility is fine until you get cancer, until you get diabetes or your children get sick,” Appleton said. “What we need is health care that’s accessible to everyone.”

For all their differences, one issue Appleton and Cooney agreed on is the use of medical marijuana, as both expressed their support of the state’s existing law as medical marijuana has proven effectiveness in certain situations.

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