It’s belt-tightening time in Washington


Irene Torres, KP News

State Sen. Derek Kilmer answers questions at theTown Hall meeting held at the Key Peninsula Civic Center. Rep. Larry Seaquist and Sen. Kilmer went to four different venues in Kitsap and Pierce Counties on March 14, 2009 for these Town Hall legislative forums.Photo by Mindi LaRose

About 50 Key Peninsula residents attended March 14 a Town Hall meeting at the civic center. State Senator Derek Kilmer (D-26) and Representative Larry Seaquist (D-26), at their third such meeting of the day, discussed their legislative work and the proposed state budget cuts and heard community concerns.

Kilmer is working on economic development and education to train and retrain workers and hone job skills. His focus is on small business, which he called “the backbone of the State’s economy.”

“The State has seen an uptick in small business licenses during this economic decline,” he said.

The Senate is working to offer a $3,000 tax credit for every new job created by a small business.

Also in process is a bill to provide $450 million in tax relief for small business infrastructure through the

Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. The State has increased unemployment benefits by $45 a week. Other legislation is designed to increase low and middle income home ownership through the Housing Finance Commission. In the House of Representatives, Seaquist’s focus is on education, health and human services and reducing the cost of government. The two discussed the passage of an early action budget bill, cutting agency overhead, halting new hires, etc., and saving $750 million; but Kilmer said, “This is just a dent. I wish we could have cut more.”

With a reported 500,000 increase in the State’s population comes increased demand for services and schools.

“We have a constitutional obligation and an economic imperative to invest in, and fully fund K-12 education...which is currently underfunded,” he said.

Seaquist noted the current unemployment rate is actually 12-13 percent, “nearing the rate that occurred in the mid-1930s, during the Depression, before the war.” He said economists are predicting a full recovery by 2013, in a Revenue Forecast Council report to be published in mid-March.

Kilmer said he and Seaquist will “work for the best and plan for the worst.” He said they will “insist that the parks operate as parks and remain open, preferably under the State’s purview.” He said that the Montana model is a late-breaking proposal, allowing those who renew licenses to “opt out rather than opt in” to support parks with a $5 park fee added to the renewal fee. “If the state decides to close the parks, we will work to keep them open and offer park districts the information and resources they will need to manage them,” Kilmer said.

Seaquist noted that a state income tax is prohibited by the State’s constitution, but agreed that the current tax code is regressive, and needs an overhaul. Jon Forseth, a Home resident, asked for clarification on a law he believes requires 10 percent across-the-board cuts to balance the state budget, followed by another 10 percent cut, if necessary. He also commented on his dissatisfaction with the former assessor’s interpretation of the law (Revised Code of Washington RCW 84.40.030) which Forseth claims requires “true and fair” property values, versus “fair market value” as the basis for taxation.

“This is set up to protect the assessor and the system,” he said. One woman expressed concern for those who have ongoing medical conditions requiring maintenance medications, and asked how budget cuts would affect them. Seaquist noted some funding will be provided through the Youth Health Bill, and that the legislature is working to improve reimbursement for primary care physicians. He also said a ‘telehealth’ program, which will allow remote monitoring of health problems, “will save money and raise health.”


Contact information:

Sen. Derek Kilmer 360-786-7650

Rep. Larry Seaquist 360-786-7802[/box]