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Sen. Nathan Schlicher: Tolling, Naval Base Kitsap and Budgets

Here is the weekly newsletter from the Gig Harbor Democrat from the 26th District.

 

Ferry and tolling needs met in transportation budget

When I arrived in Olympia, one of my main goals was to preserve and improve the transportation infrastructure that is so critical to the 26th District. This effort centered around reining in tolls on the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and ensuring that ferry service was maintained on the Kitsap Peninsula and around the state. I am proud to say that those concerns have been heard and addressed.

In sponsoring Senate Bill 5592, I sought to keep tolls down by limiting the amount of toll revenues spent on administration and oversight. When that bill ran into a partisan wall, I fought for and succeeded in including in the transportation budget a $2.9 million reduction in administration and overhead in the tolling division. For years, the residents of the Kitsap Peninsula have been shouldering the majority of the burden created by the rising cost of bridge tolls. In reducing the amount spent on administration, the Senate will help those residents.

The Senate budget will also continue existing ferry runs and services for its more than 20 million passengers. In spite of the important role ferries play from Tacoma to the San Juans, the system has been repeatedly targeted for cuts in services and increases in fares. In this case, less is not more. Service reductions should not and cannot be the default solution for solving the funding needs of a system that is a critical component of everyday life, not an extravagance to be curtailed when times are tough.

 

Governor’s budget includes funding for Naval Base Kitsap projects

Naval Base Kitsap is one of the most important employment and economic drivers in our district. However, federal budget cuts triggered by sequestration have impacted funding for projects in and around the base. With that in mind, I have worked with Gov. Inslee and Congressman Derek Kilmer to acquire funding for our district in the capital budget to fund infrastructure projects that will support the military bases and the men and women in our district who rely on the military for their livelihood.

I was thrilled to learn that Gov. Inslee had included two of those projects in his budget priorities, including a request for $2 million to improve the commercial truck entrance at the Missouri Gate of the naval shipyard and $1.3 million to fund safety improvements to the pedestrian tunnel and turnstile entrance to the shipyard at the intersection of Park Avenue and Burwell Street. The tunnel is used by thousands of workers arriving and departing from the shipyard each day.

Planning and engineering on both these projects has been completed. All that was missing was the money to implement these common-sense improvements.   On behalf of our district, I am grateful to the governor and Rep. Kilmer for recognizing a need and acting on it.

 

More than $14 million in construction coming to the 26th District

The release of the Capital Budget contained great news for the 26th District. In working with the Capital Budget Committee I was able to secure more than $14 million in funding for projects in our district. Roofs need mending, roads need to be resurfaced and playgrounds and community centers need building. The money invested in these projects by the state will create jobs, improve infrastructure and enhance the lives of the people who live in our communities.

I am very excited to see work begin on the Port Orchard Bay Street Pedestrian Path and the DeKalb Pier, the redevelopment of the Francis Haddon Morgan Center and the Gig Harbor Playzone. For a closer look at the Capital Budget, click HERE.

Of course, not every project that I supported was funded, but I will work with Rep. Seaquist and the House of Representatives to seek out funding for the Bremerton Community Center, the Gig Harbor YMCA and the Harper Pier. Completion of these projects are a high priority to me and the district and I will continue to fight for them.

 

Why I could not support a budget that punished children and the poor

While I was pleased with the bipartisan process that produced the Senate version of the 2013-15 budget, the budget itself was a new version of “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.” While there were areas I supported, I could not bring myself to support a budget that targets the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

Although I was pleased to see budget fully implement the Affordable Care Act, improve mental health treatment, put $100 million into higher education and invest $1 billion into the McCleary decision, the budget did nothing to create long-term sustainability. It is full of gimmicks and cost shifts that will force the legislature back to Olympia next year in a worse position to close yet another budget gap. We need responsible and efficient spending and this budget did not have it.

But, most importantly, this budget is balanced on the backs of the people who need our help the most. If adopted, the Senate budget would create up to 25,000 newly homeless men, women and children and would cut $200 million from the safety net designed to support those in need. These are not bargaining chips. These are people’s lives. I could not in good conscience vote for such a budget.

I look forward to working with all members of the Legislature and Gov. Inslee to fund a sustainable, balanced and thoughtful budget that does not punish the poor and the children of our state.

As always, if you have an idea or a concern, send me an email or give me a phone call. I want to hear from you. Thank you.

-Nathan Schlicher

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