Colfax native Joe Schmick believes his 26 years as a farmer and small businessman make him the best candidate to represent eastern Washington’s interests in the Legislature.Wow, now that's a candidate. Joe has the famring and business experience and strongly believes in improving our business climate, particularly retail, is against restrictive land-use regulations, and wants more free market competition in health care. Here is a man that knows the right way to address Whitman County's most pressing problems.
Schmick is one of four Republicans vying for the seat being vacated by Rep. Don Cox, R-Colfax.
The other candidates Schmick will face in the Sept. 19 primary are Tedd Nealey, a farmer from Cheney, Steve Hailey, a farmer and rancher from Mesa, and Ritzville businessman Glen Stockwell.
One of Schmick’s top priorities if elected will be to help create a better business climate in the state. He is disturbed by the trend of businesses moving from border communities in eastern Washington into Idaho, where the sales tax, minimum wage and unemployment insurance rates are lower.
“We have a problem. It’s got to change,” Schmick said.
He noted drops in retail sales in several communities along the Washington-Idaho border in 2005.
Clarkston, Pullman, Colfax and Palouse all have seen retail declines, while communities such as Lewiston and Coeur d’Alene are picking up more sales, Schmick said. Spokane had a modest 5 percent increase in retail sales in 2005, but that pales in comparison to Coeur d’Alene’s 22 percent jump.
Schmick proposes reforming the oft-criticized business and occupation tax so it would be based on profits rather than gross sales.
The ability to make a profit is the biggest challenge facing farmers, he said. Costs for diesel fuel to run equipment and the natural gas used to make anhydrous ammonia fertilizer jumped significantly over the past year. Wheat prices haven’t kept up, which means many farmers are left struggling to make ends meet.
One option farmers have for staying in business — selling off portions of their land to developers — has been made difficult by overly restrictive land-use regulations, he said. Schmick favors restoring more rights to private property owners to use their land in the best way that meets their needs.
“We have to be careful we’re not telling property owners what they can and can’t do,” he said.
Higher education is an important asset in the region, in Schmick’s view. He would like to see the Legislature put more money into higher education. In particular, he wants to see Washington public school students attend in-state colleges and universities.
“Education is our future,” he said. “If we don’t educate kids here, they don’t stay here for jobs.”
The fourth pillar of Schmick’s platform is getting more affordable health care for Washington families. Schmick worked with the Farm Bureau Trust, a committee that oversaw the health plans available to farming families through the state farm bureau.
He believes the best solution to the crisis of rising health care premiums is to encourage more companies to compete to provide health care. That would lead to more choices and lower costs, he said.
Getting all of these things accomplished will mean working with Democrats and showing them the two parties’ priorities aren’t all that different.
“We have to work together to help the whole state,” he said.
* NAME: Joe Schmick
* RUNNING FOR: Washington Legislature 9th District Representative, Position 1
* PERSONAL: 48 years old; married; no children
* OCCUPATION: Farmer; owns a vending machine business
* ACTIVITIES: Washington Farm Bureau Board of Directors
I also know Joe personally and he is a fine man. You would be hard pressed to find someone better to represent us in Olympia.