Karen Skoog was elected as County Commissioner in 2012. She is an appointed member of the Public Lands Steering Committee with National Association of Counties and received the 2016 Property Rights Defender of the Year from Citizens Alliance for Property Rights.
Karen lives with John, her husband of 30 years, near Elk. They are blessed that their 5 children live close by so they can enjoy the grand-kids. They are partners in a family owned roofing company called Sunvek and enjoy their small farm, church family, and community.
What is the most important challenge facing Pend Oreille County and what would you propose to do about it?
If I have to choose only one challenge it would be SRS and how not receiving the $400,000 would affect the budget. The Secure Rural Schools program provides assistance to rural counties and school districts affected by the decline in revenue from reduced timber harvests on federal lands. The Act has expired and counties are left asking for extensions. As a member of the Public Lands Steering Committee, I will continue to work with other western counties to press for funding options for SRS as well as search for long term sustainable solutions. This is part of several challenges relating to USFS public lands.
Do you support the county pursuing the return of federal lands to the state?
Washington State Association of Counties introduced a bill in the state legislature to study the pros and cons of such a transfer because Washington is a good example of state lands that are managed. National Association of Counties has supportive platform language on the transfer because of common issues of mismanaged unhealthy forests and fires as well as uncertainty of future payments. The policy of American Lands Council, a non profit group started by county commissioners, is to retain public ownership of public lands. Federal public lands shall become state public lands to be managed in accordance with state and local plans. The State Enabling act requires that 95% of the proceeds for public lands sold after transfer be given to the Federal Government. There is no incentive to privatize. Transferring public lands requires an act of Congress and a willing state. I believe the citizens of Washington state have a vested interest and commitment to the lands where we live. Clearly, counties with Federally managed Public Lands should support the transfer to State management for the best interest of the people and the environment.
Should the county adopt a mental health tax to support counseling services?
I support finding solutions for problems caused by changes in state funding and I want to see help for our families and neighbors affected by mental health and drug addiction issues. Counties that have adopted the 1/10 of 1% sales tax have found state funding has been reduced in other programs by the State Legislature. The rules with this tax are that it must be used for new services, so we could have a reduction in funding for basic services. The county should continue to study the issue and work with the Legislature to resolve consequences.
What are your views on climate change?
Washington State is a very small portion of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. Over the years both green and the natural resource extraction industry has answered peoples’ concerns with more energy efficiency in our daily lives and innovation in many areas of production. It makes sense to conserve energy and to be efficient. I do not support punitive taxes meant to alter human action. Many times the tax is meant to support a specific issue but gets swept to another area. Additional regulations relating to emissions in a state that is already one of the most efficient in the world could damage our competitiveness. Rural Washington is a low impact to the climate so I keep an eye out for proposed regulations and taxes that would affect our families such as wood stove bans and taxing vehicle miles traveled.
Is man made climate change real?
Our knowledge of how this planet works, science, and technology is always evolving. Scientific conclusion should not be philosophical. When an outcome of study is concluded and the hypothesis becomes theory it is settled till new information is obtained to change that outcome. We all lose when positions are held onto like religion. The winners are the huge industries on both side of the debate – both green and natural resource extraction – that have tax money, contributions and product sales that pad pockets. What really matters is that our “can do” American Spirit is finding innovative ways to live lightly on this planet. We all care about where we live. We breath in the same air and expel CO2.