GOP incumbent trying to gauge needs of constituentsI consider David a personal friend, and I've had the privilege of helping him out a bit on his reelection campaign this year.
Washington State Rep. David Buri is running a different kind of campaign this fall.
The Colfax Republican is unopposed in his bid for a second term in the Legislature’s 9th District, so rather than talking to people and trying to win votes, he’s listening to what constituents have to say about issues that affect them.
The subjects that come up most often are the cost of health care and the need for economic development in rural eastern Washington, he said.
“I’m hearing a lot of concern about health insurance, whether it be from businesses who provide insurance for their employees, or individuals trying to buy it on their own,” Buri said. “There’s a real frustration about the cost.”
Health insurance has been a hot topic in political races from the federal down to the county level. Premiums are skyrocketing across the nation, leaving both employers and employees feeling the pinch.
Employers end up paying more and having to cut costs elsewhere — a dilemma the city of Pullman faces each year as it writes a new annual budget. Employees often end up with higher deductibles and fewer options.
There are two different schools of thought in Olympia about how to tackle the health insurance crisis in Washington, Buri said. Republicans mostly favor bringing more insurers into the state because they believe more competition would level the playing field.
“There are not many companies who will write business in our state right now,” Buri said. “I’m being told that’s because there are so many mandates.”
Some of the mandates involve the kinds of things that have to be covered. Those can be good for residents, Buri said, but sometimes they result in people having coverage they don’t need.
“A good example is pregnancy coverage,” Buri said. “People past childbearing age might want more basic coverage, but they can’t get it in this state. Republicans think if we could get some of the mandates off, we could get more companies. Let the free market work.”
Washington Democrats tend to think health insurance premiums are so high because there are too many people who have no coverage, Buri said.
“More people covered would broaden the risk pool and drive down the cost,” he said. “Neither Republicans nor Democrats want people uncovered because those people will end up in the ERs where it’s more expensive.”
Buri hopes to see both parties work together toward a compromise when the Legislature returns to Olympia for its 2007 session. The Democrats hold a majority in both the state House and the state Senate. Buri doesn’t see that changing anytime soon.
“There’s no indication of a seismic shift,” he said. “I’m certainly willing to work with” the Democrats.
Broadening economic development has been on the minds of many of his rural constituents, Buri said.
The 9th District is a heavily agricultural region that includes all of Whitman, Asotin, Garfield and Adams counties, and parts of Spokane and Franklin counties.
Throughout the district, fuel and fertilizer costs are cutting into farmers’ ability to make a profit, Buri said.
“Recently, for the first time since the Great Depression, a gallon of diesel was worth more than a bushel of wheat,” he said.
The Legislature gave farmers a boost in its 2006 session by eliminating a tax on dyed diesel fuel and a sales tax on used parts for farm equipment, but more needs to be done, he said, adding that also will require building relationships across the aisle.
Building relationships and learning to understand people with differing views was one of the most important things Buri learned in his freshman term.
“There are a lot of fine people over there. Some of them have Ds by their names and some of them have Rs by their names,” he said.
The residents of the Palouse are lucky to have David as a state representative. In his first two years, he was elected as Assistant Minority Whip, quite an honor for a freshman representative. Here's to another productive two years in Olympia.