Local representatives present priorities for coming year

Posted on January 7th, 2022 By:

Gig Harbor’s state and national elected officials discussed their 2022 priorities Thursday during a virtual meeting co-sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and TCC-Gig Harbor.

U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, talked about how Gig Harbor and nearby communities have been helped by the American Rescue Plan Act passed by Congress in early 2021, and about additional benefits in store through the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act signed into law by President Joe Biden in December.

Funds from the infrastructure bill support local economic drivers such as the ports of Tacoma and Bremerton. It will also help reduce traffic congestion.

“Like you, I’m tired of sitting in traffic. When you drive through parts of our region, it seems like the speed limit signs are only there for nostalgia purposes,” Kilmer said. “The infrastructure bill will make transformative investments in repairing and rebuilding roads and bridges.”

U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer

U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer

Kilmer added that he and state Sen. Emily Randall have also been working to find a solution to the Gorst bottleneck.

The bill also boosts broadband access in places with poor internet availability.

“As we’ve learned in this pandemic, internet access is not just about whether you can watch (certain) TV shows,” he said. “It’s also about whether you can operate your business remotely when your storefront is shut down, whether you can participate in remote learning opportunities, whether you can have that telehealth visit with your doctor.”

The infrastructure bill also provides funds for clean water and for fixing culverts that impede salmon passage, he said.

In the months ahead, Kilmer will be working to get Biden’s Build Back Better Act passed. That legislation will lower taxes for families, help reduce health care and prescription drug costs and address rising prices.

“And it has provisions to deliver two years of free preschool to every 3-and-4-year old, and cut the amount families have to pay for child care in half for most families,” he said. “And it will extend the child tax credit to help families make ends meet. That’s a big deal as we work out some of the challenges our employers have had in finding workers. I think it will help working parents get back into the workforce.”

The act also addresses the affordable housing crisis, he said, by providing rental assistance, and money to build and preserve more affordable homes.

“And the bill is paid for by asking those who make $400,000 and more — and primarily those making $10 million a year — to pay more, and asking large corporations to pay more. Anyone who makes less than $400,000 a year won’t pay a penny more in taxes,” Kilmer said.

Kilmer is also continuing to chair a bipartisan working group called The Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, nicknamed the “Fix Congress Committee.”

“It’s all about making government work better,” he said. So far, about half of the 140 recommendations the committee has put forth are being implemented. “Our goal is not just to make recommendations, but to actually make change so our government works better for you.”

State Rep. Jesse Young

State Rep. Jesse Young

State Rep. Jesse Young, R-Gig Harbor, talked about his ideas to reduce congestion on Highway 16, including solving the problems at the Highway 16-Wollochet Drive interchange, and rerouting Highway 302 to bypass Purdy.

Young is also focused on “reforming the governor’s emergency powers to get back to the rule of law.”

“We need some Democrats to join us to get back to the way our Constitution requires us and let the rule of law dictate what happens and not what some new governor mandates are going to dictate,” he said.

The original intent of the (emergency powers) act was to allow the governor to take control for things like “if Mount Rainier blows or we have an earthquake or a tsunami,” he said.

State Sen. Emily Randall, D-Bremerton, said that she has recently been focusing on “bringing the Legislature to the community” to brainstorm what needs to be done, and that she has learned a great deal through meetings at coffeehouses and local parks “when it’s safe.”

State Sen. Emily Randall

State Sen. Emily Randall

She added that in January 2021 the legislature passed a $2.2 billion COVID relief bill that included $1.7 billion in small business tax relief. Though it might sound like the state’s economy is in a strong position, “The big vision of the economy doesn’t always translate to individuals,” she said. “And there’s been a disproportionate impact, especially on rural and underserved communities and people who were already struggling before the pandemic hit.”

Randall’s No. 1 priority for 2022 is to help the 26th District make a full and equitable recovery, she said. That includes making investments in infrastructure and ensuring that “projects we need and deserve are funded” — such as solving the Gorst bottleneck, finding a fix to the congestion on Highway 16 and “lowering or eliminating Narrows Bridge tolls.” She also wants to make sure that the state ferry system is strong and robust. “We have a lot of transportation and infrastructure needs, and it will take a lot of willpower to pass a transportation package,” she said.

She’ll also be working to find solutions to the child care situation. “We live in a child care desert,” she said. Pension reform and workforce development are also important, she added. “This year I’ll be working to expand apprenticeship programs and to simplify the system for financial aid access for trade schools and apprenticeships. And also ensuring that every apprenticeship graduate gets an associates degree. We should honor and acknowledge the many hours of training that they go through,” she said.

Another of Randall’s priorities is clarifying justice reform legislation that was passed during the last session. “How can we clean up some of the problems” that legislation has caused, she said.

She’ll also be focusing on health care access, including reproductive health access and freedom, and on public transportation so people who don’t drive can get around easily.

Rep. Michelle Caldier, R-Port Orchard, spoke about what she calls the “imbalance” in the state Legislature and that her No. 1 task will be to end the eviction moratorium. “We got $1.1 billion in rental assistance, but we need to help the housing owners, too,” she said. She accused Gov. Inslee of “reversing his word” and extending the eviction moratorium.

State Rep. Michelle Caldier

State Rep. Michelle Caldier

Caldier added that she is “not putting forward many new bills but is trying to fix what we’ve already done.” Bills that she is introducing cover issues like foster care for difficult-to-place foster kids, workforce issues such as creating more opportunities for health-care study at the college level, and taxes.