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Washington's 6th District Race: Lynette Vehrs vs. Mike Volz

The battle for representative in Washington’s 6th district pits two newcomers hoping to win the seat of former Republican representative Kevin Parker, who retired. Chief deputy treasurer for Spokane County Mike Volz is running as a Republican against retired nurse Lynette Vehrs, a democrat.

Mike Volz touts his experience in finance, both as a deputy treasurer and as a former assistant financial director for Spokane transit. Lynette Vehrs cites her work as a nurse, and experience with the state nursing association, and also working with the legislature on the state’s Health Policy Council.

We asked both candidates about how the legislature will deal with the so called McCleary decisison, where the state Supreme Court has told lawmakers they must meet financial obligations to pay for education, something that will likely shake up the state’s budget.

Lynette Vehrs is adamant about where any budget cuts to pay for education. She explains, “I am 100 percent in favor of funding our constitutional duty,  I do not want to see any safety net programs cut - elderly or long term care, people with disabilities - we cannot cut that”

Mike Volz believes all state programs can do more belt tightening, if it is needed through the McCleary ruling. “I work in the Spokane county treasurer’s office as the chief deputy treasurer, and we are performing the same work we did a decade ago with less staff, and so I know it can be done.”

One thing Vehrs has been doing is meeting with officials from smaller communities in her district to see what they needs are.  “Primarily is about cuts, they’ve had lots of tax cuts since the recession, and now that were coming back together, they need some money in order to do some of their projects”

Mike Volz agrees the smaller communities could use additional funding, but doesn’t want to go over board, “There’s a funding challenge to all sorts of programs, and revenues are coming back, and those need to be looked at as not an opportunity to create new programs but to go back and backfill some of these new holes with this new revenue.”

With her healthcare background Vehrs says one thing she would like to tackle is ongoing healthcare issues that were not solved by Medicaid expansion, and the Affordable Care Act. She cites increasing costs for some medications, like the Hepatitis C medication and the Epi-pen, or home care denied by insurance companies.  Vehrs says, “A lot of it was homecare needed by a client that has perhaps a bad ulcer or wound and is unable to change that or don’t have a family member we could teach, and they were told just figure it out.”

And while Vehrs would like to see the state take the option of expanding ACA, Volz believes in many cases the act has gone too far.  He says, “I think we need to take step back on healthcare, and remember that the key focus should be on the patient and the doctor, and we’ve lost sight of that with ACA with the amount of bureaucratic paperwork the doctors have to do has become burdensome, rates are going up, people are not able to keep their doctor.”

On health and environmental issue that concerns Lynette Vehrs is the oil trains that run through Spokane, and the safety threat they pose.  “The worst case scenario that could happen to Spokane Is a train derailing right in downtown below Deaconess and Sacred Heart. And perhaps it could destroy them so they no longer have emergency rooms, we have personnel that could be destroyed and killed.” Vehrs hopes the legislature can take steps to ensure the safety of the community.

Mike Volz is hopeful the industry can eventually ensure community safety though use of double hulled oil cars but feels there is no way to restrict its shipment via the rails. Volz says, “Is it ever going to be risk free? No. Life isn’t risk free, but ultimately we need oil and coal.” Volz is opposed to the idea of requiring the railroad carriers to contribute to a special fund for oil cleanup or disaster funding. “Do you charge them after the act , and make them pay the bill often we have these fees for a noble purpose and they get sucked off to the general fund”

Steve was part of the Spokane Public Radio family for many years before he came on air in 1999. His wife, Laurie, produced Radio Ethiopia in the late 1980s through the '90s, and Steve used to “lurk in the shadowy world” of Weekend SPR. Steve has done various on air shifts at the station, including nearly 15 years as the local Morning Edition host. Currently, he is the voice of local weather and news during All Things Considerd, writing, editing, producing and/or delivering newscasts and features for both KPBX and KSFC. Aside from SPR, Steve ,who lives in the country, enjoys gardening, chickens, playing and listening to music, astronomy, photography, sports cars and camping.