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Legislators share views on tough session
Snoqualmie Valley state legislators Cheryl Pflug, Jay Rodne and Glenn Anderson shared their experiences from the recent legislative session during a wrap-up visit to the Snoqualmie Valley Chamber Commerce.
Reps. Rodne and Anderson and State Sen. Pflug took questions from Chamber government affairs committee head Steve Walter, Snoqualmie Valley Record Publisher William Shaw and Issaquah Press/Sno Valley Star Publisher Debbie Berto at a chamber event Friday, May 15, at the Snoqualmie Ridge TPC.
There were few positive notes or structural reforms in a dismal, budget-slashing session, legislators said.
The state will likely have a budget deficit next year and will need to make education a priority, Anderson said. Education is the paramount duty of Washington, under the state constitution.
“Everything else is inferior to what you do with K-12,” he said. “I don’t believe we should cut that money.”
“We’ve never had a priorities approach to our budget process,” Rodne said. Now, Washington is dealing with the impacts of a dysfunctional budget, he added.
Rodne weighed in on the plan for tolling on the State Route 520 bridge over Lake Washington. Projected tolls of $5 and up aren’t dedicated solely to 520 bridge construction, and could drive commuters over to the Interstate 90 bridge.
“I-90 is going to be a parking lot,” he predicted.
Washington will face long-term challenges due to cuts in state pension funding.
“It’s become a habit of not funding the state pension fund,” Anderson said.
A $450 million shortfall for the state pension fund will end up costing the state $1 billion over the next 10 years, he said.
Pflug said that a $15 a month benefit cut from state employees’ paychecks would have eliminated some health care program cuts.
Instead, she said, the state spent another $100 million on employees.
Rodne suggested some privatization of the state Labor and Industries Department, and called on the state to privatize liquor sales, too.
“In today’s day and age, the state should get out of the liquor business,” he said.
Rodne described his high note in the past session, a new bill designed to prevent concussion injuries in school sports. His bill removes any child suspected of suffering concussion from a game until cleared by a health professional. The bill is the first of its kind in the country, and was spurred by a traumatic brain injury to a Maple Valley football player.
Pflug touted a new bill that helps protect the tax status of farm properties.
Discussing newly passed tourism promotion legislation, Anderson said he supports efforts by the community to organize attractions for tourists.
“You want to be the first stop” for urban residents seeking recreation,” he told the chamber. “People will be looking for something in their backyard.”