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South Kitsap businesses setting legislative priorities

Port Orchard business owners understand the economic realities faced by lawmakers in Olympia these days.

They just want to be sure the reverse is true, too.

“Believe me, we get it,” said Port Orchard City Clerk Patti Kirkpatrick, who chairs the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce’s Legislative Affairs Committee. “No one wants to go to them with our hand out because we know they don’t have any money spend in this economy. But we do want them to remember it’s businesses that create the jobs we need to get us out of this recession, and it makes no sense to punish precisely the people you need to be helping.”

The chamber is currently polling its membership to determine its priorities for the 2011 legislative session.

Responses will be collected through Monday, Kirkpatrick said.

“This is the third year we’ve done this survey,” said Chamber Executive Director Coreen Haydock Johnson. “When I first started here, we’d gotten away from away from doing legislative things, but we’re trying to get back into it as we go along.”

Last year the chamber’s legislative priorities included:

• supporting state ferries, especially the local foot ferry;

• low-cost, flexible healthcare plans;

• freezing minimum wage, creating a training wage option, and creating a tip credit for those that earn gratuity; and,

• opposing the elimination of B&O tax deduction for initiation fees and dues.

“Those aren’t necessarily things that require the Legislature to spend any money or give us anything,” Kirkpatrick said. “But if they decide to take something away, we want to know why and what they’re going to replace it with.”

Once the information is gathered, Kirkpatrick said the chamber wants to work closely with the 26th District legislative delegation to advance its goals.

At least two teleconferences are planned to keep the lawmakers updated.

“I know I’m planning to work a lot more closely with them than we have in the past,” Kirkpatrick said. “We can follow the session online and keep track of how everyone votes. We also want to keep track of what votes are coming up that affect business.”

Kirk Patrick said all of the district’s legislators — Sen. Derek Kilmer and Reps. Jan Angel and Larry Seaquist — were on board with the plan.

Just as important, the Port Orchard chamber is trying to coordinate its efforts with those of Gig Harbor and Bremerton so that everyone speaks with one voice.

“This isn’t about Port Orchard trying to elbow its way to the front of the line,” Kirkpatrick said. “The things we want will presumably help everyone.

“Believe me,” she said, “if someone else wants to take the lead on this, we’d be happy to let them. The important thing is the result, not who gets the credit for it.”

Responses can be emailed to office@portorchard.com or mailed to the Port Orchard Chamber, 1014 Bay St. No. 8, Port Orchard. WA 98366.

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