Transportation, education focus of legislative session


Marsha Hart, KP News

Derek Kilmer.

As the legislative session resumes, Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, said he will focus on some specific needs of the Key Peninsula, introduce some bills that would benefit small business owners, and continue to focus on education.

It’s an ongoing problem for the Key Peninsula, and the SR 302 corridor is not going away. Last year saw a series of community meetings to address the safety concerns of the stretch of road. Kilmer said last year $7.5 million was in the budget for the project, and “we just have to keep it in the budget.”

“There is the corridor study that is underway and looking at alternative routes onto the Key Peninsula, and in talking to Department of Transportation, it appears they will need some additional funding to get to a preferred alternative,” he said. “Last year I was able to put in a provision in hopes of seeing 302 designated as a Safety Corridor, which would improve the ability to receive safety dollars. It isn’t officially designated yet, but stay tuned.”

It isn’t the first time money has been poured into a study to improve SR 302. In 1991 the legislature authorized expenditure for such a study, but the recommendation from that study was to do nothing. Kilmer said he is aware of that, and doesn’t want to see the same thing happen this time around.

“There was a study done years back and it wasn’t acted on,” Kilmer said. “I don’t believe in studying things just to study them, we have a real safety issue and I’d like to see us fix it.”

Another transportation issue is the Tacoma Narrows Bridge toll. Kilmer said there is a $5.28 million loan that came from state department of motor vehicles to cover the cost of operations before the bridge opened. It’s due for repayment, and Kilmer is concerned the tolls will be increased, which would put a burden on Key Peninsula residents in an already difficult economy.

“I’m trying to get it either forgiven or pushed into the future,” he said.

In an effort to help small businesses, Kilmer said he has a bill that would provide a tax credit for small businesses on the cusp of being able to hire an employee. It would defray the occupation tax for startup and existing small businesses, he said.

And as the chairman of the Higher Education Committee, and the Workforce Development Committee, Kilmer said the challenges surrounding education and jobs are a big concern.

“I have about a dozen bills on work force development, infrastructure and economic growth, roads, sewer, and trying to help folks get a good education,” he said.

“One bill is to reward knowledge rather than seat time. If someone attends a private career college and they want to come to one of our community or technical colleges, it doesn’t count toward their degree.”

The bill would allow for not only prior college classes, but also work experience and life experience to count toward a degree,  including military work experience.

“Let’s reward knowledge rather than seat time,” he said.