Normally I have lunch with our two state Representatives from the 7th District a couple times a year to talk about what’s going on in that other Washington – Western Washington that is, at the state capital. Such a meeting was planned for last week, but it was just Rep. Shelly Short and myself as Rep. Joel Kretz was feeling under the weather.
We got a chance to talk about about the usual… mostly budgets, transportation issues and education. Short said it felt good to get out of Olympia with a supplementary budget that just needed to be tweaked here and there and that while the legislature works on a biennial budget, they have to forecast out for four years.
“We did it without raising taxes and we were able to give some money towards education,” she said. “We haven’t had a supplementary budget in awhile… it’s good to have a budget where there is no added spending.”
Short also said it is also good to see the state returning actual Federal Timber Dollars to the schools for the first time in a long time without subtracting what a school district gets from its normal basic education funding.
“Of course it’s being phased in, but that’s huge,” she said. “I would still like to see full funding of course.”
The legislator said that the gas tax was a huge part of the House’s discussion. She wondered out load why someone would want to take more of a person’s hard earned money for new projects, rather than maintaining current infrastructure and projects. Short said the cost drivers imposed by our state make our projects cost one and a half to two times greater than in neighboring states.
“Part of that is the sales tax and part of it is prevailing wage and another part is the permitting,” she said.
She pointed to the Snohomish Bridge which was replaced quickly because it was an emergency and the state streamlined the process.
“Why can we do that in other transportation projects. It was great example of how the process should be,” she said.
I asked her why her colleague put forward a proposal to extend the Heavy Haul Corridor from the Canadian border to Pateros, something that is unpopular with her Oroville and Tonasket constituents.
She said she couldn’t speak for Kretz, but felt he thought it was worth studying.
I said it seemed unproductive as a $55 million highway upgrade to extend the Heavy Haul as it is very unlikely to pass either in the House or the Senate.
McCleary – the court ruling that says the legislature is Constitutionally obligated to fund basic education was a “big topic” she said.
“You think of levy equalization and the things that are very important to our rural schools. You think we should be able to fund education with the revenue we have,” she said.
Short said she is proud of the work she has done regarding health care and environmental policies. She sees a real need to improve the mental health care that’s available and that people with mental health issues shouldn’t be stigmatized.
“My main focus has been on the environmental polices and have been challenging some of the environmental restrictions. Agencies should show their work so people can understand whether something is needed or not. We live and die by regulations,” she said.
Being busy people our legislators tend to pack a lot into a one-hour lunch and I’m sure there was more said between bite-fulls at Hometown Pizza, but that’s the gist