Kilmer: High gas prices impact government, too

As part of his post-legislative information strategy, 26th District Sen. Derek Kilmer (D-Gig Har-bor) made presentations last week to government and business groups about what was accomplished during the session.

Kilmer gave different versions of the same speech to the Port Orchard City Council on Tuesday and the Chamber of Commerce Business Breakfast on Friday. The topics included education, transportation and business development.

At both events he opened with discussion of a local university center, which would provide residents the ability to earn a four-year degree without commuting to Seattle or Tacoma — or farther.

“The baccalaureate program we have in place is already opening up a whole new world,” Kilmer said. “It can be a life-changer for people who have a family and want to get a degree. It can also be a life-changer for employers who need educated workers in order to stay competitive.”

Kilmer said planning for the future often focuses on specific dates, such as 2020, in order to stress the importance of secondary education.

“It’s true that grades one through 12 are important,” Kilmer said. “But in fact, 80 percent of the 2020 workforce are those who are working today.

“Our state has made a commitment to leverage our research institutions, he said. “We want to have people thinking deep thoughts, but ideally they will be thinking deep thoughts that turn into jobs.”

Kilmer said that high gas prices have created “a perfect storm” that is battering local governments.

The county has relied on money from the gasoline tax allocated for certain projects.

Higher gas prices decrease sales and tax revenues, so the projects lose funding.

“Given this dynamic, every dollar coming in the door has been committed to a project,” he said. “Fortunately, we were successful in keeping these projects in the budget this year. I tried to make sure that all these commitments stayed within the budget. I was glad that I was able to do this.”

As for the ferries, Kilmer said the focus has shifted from renovating terminals to purchasing boats.

“It’s no surprise that a 90-year-old steel ferry isn’t working properly,”?he said. “We will need to invest in new boats, and not allocate money to the terminals. Until we get these boats, it will be like having a really expensive garage to house cars that don’t work.”

Kilmer advocates the ferry system incorporating more imaginative solutions, such as off-peak discounts and a reservation system.

While Kilmer called Port Orchard “the gold standard” when it comes to supporting the military, he admitted that some of the state’s policies toward veterans have a tarnished quality.

He advocates a new law that provides a grace period for the renewal of business and professional licenses for returning veterans.

He also favors providing credit for medical corps service that can be applied to certification.

As an example of mistreatment of veterans, Kilmer told the story of a South Kitsap veteran who was taken as a prisoner during the Korean War but escaped after a short time.

When he attempted to purchase commemorative POW plates, the request was denied because he had been a POW for less than 30 days.

“Part of my job is to keep the state from doing dumb things,” Kilmer said.

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