DRYDEN — Not everything can be fixed with legislation and not all laws do what lawmakers believe they will do.
The first is part of 12th District state Rep. Keith Goehner’s basic philosophy.
“As individuals, we should be living in the community in harmony. It takes each one of us to look carefully within ourselves,” he said. “That’s the individual’s role rather than looking to government to pass a law to make someone else change their behavior.”
The second is a lesson the 68-year-old Republican orchardist from Dryden learned during his 15 years as a Chelan County commissioner. Unfunded state mandates and regulations create unintended consequences for cities, counties and local agencies required to follow the rules. That, in turn, affects the people who live in those cities and counties.
“Good legislation requires careful dialogue, a willingness to listen and act accordingly,” he said. Instead, what often happens is what he calls “sound-bite legislation.”
“They pass something at the state level that sounds good at the time. As a legislator, you might have a bill that has a nice title to it, but it comes with 50 pages of text and there’s a lot of detail in there. One of the challenges we have as legislators is to fully understand all the implications of the bill,” he said.
When a couple thousand bills are being rushed through to meet a cutoff deadline, that’s easier said than done.
“One of my core principles is making sure local governments are not negatively impacted,” he said.
He stuck to his promise during his first term in office. He was named a “City Champion” by the Association of Washington Cities for his service on the bipartisan Local Government Caucus as an advocate for local decision-making.
He would like to continue that work — and more — during a second term. He is seeking re-election to the House seat in the Nov. 3 general election, facing a challenge from Methow Valley Democrat Adrianne Moore. The 12th District covers Chelan and Douglas counties and parts of Grant and Okanogan counties.
Goehner said both he and his opponent have the best interests of the district at heart and recognize what is important to the people who live here. Those include agriculture, small business, rural health care, education forests and hydropower.
They differ in philosophy of government, he said, and how to accomplish their goals.
“I believe government is there to empower the people, to give them opportunity to basically do what they can for themselves,” he said. “I’m there to represent the people and provide effective and efficient government.”
He doesn’t support bigger government or social programs that aren’t part of the core service.
“That doesn’t mean there aren’t issues that need to be addressed and dealt with. I think we need to be careful how we move forward,” he said.
With the arrival of COVID-19, the need to protect the district’s basic interests is even stronger, he said.
His focus is on making sure basic government services are funded, including education, which was a challenge even when the budget was flush. With the loss of revenues as a result of the pandemic, it will be even more difficult.
He doesn’t support raising taxes to accomplish that goal. Property taxes typically are a stable revenue source, until people can’t afford to pay them.
“Continuing to increase property taxes, in the long run, jeopardizes the whole system of government and puts individual home ownership at risk,” he said.
He would like to reduce expenditures, which is not a quick fix.
“It may be more cumbersome and a more political process,” he said, but worth the effort.
He would like state lawmakers to focus on the basics, including how to fund transportation infrastructure in a sustainable way. He would like to talk about building a more predictable business climate — without continued increases in business taxes — which would help small businesses.
With the pandemic and equity issues top of mind, though, he expects the next legislative session will focus on social issues — with an onslaught of proposed legislative fixes that have quick appeal, but not much long-term impact.
“We need to address the problem as a whole rather than just one component or aspect of it. We need to think it through to see how meaningful it will be, and the long-term implications,” he said. “We need to take a comprehensive approach.”