Kilmer pledges support for education, business

Economic conditions will force the Washington State Legislature to support only those programs that invest in the community and postpone funding of those that do not directly support business, education and transportation, according to 26th District Sen. Derek Kilmer (D-Gig Harbor).

“We need to do things differently,” Kilmer said. “We will need to make substantial cuts and prioritize exactly what the government should and should not do.”

The latest estimate of a $5.1 billion shortfall is likely to go up, according to Kilmer.

While he said, “This is not the time to raise taxes,” he was unable to offer any guarantees his colleagues wouldn’t do so.

For his part, Kilmer said he is looking toward creative financing, such as infrastructure improvements that will stimulate business development.

“A good example of this is the Gig Harbor (sewage) treatment plant,” he said. “If this is completed, then it will encourage businesses to expand.”

Kilmer said support of educational opportunities and small businesses will offset the pain brought about by poor economic conditions, although not immediately.

The establishment of a baccalaureate program in Kitsap County is a good first step, and would support the training for jobs needed by local firms.

“I’ve been told by companies in Kitsap County that they could double the size of their workforce if trained people were available to them,” he said. “There is a potential for engineering jobs, and we have the opportunity to train people for those positions and keep them in the area.”

Kilmer quoted Benjamin Franklin, saying that investment in education pays the greatest interest.

In a general sense, he said, educating people saves money in the long run — in unemployment, social services and crime fighting areas.

Aside from the baccalaureate program, Kilmer will support other specific measures to develop the local workforce. One is a bill that allocates work-study funds to residents, eliminating this funding for out-of-state students.

This helps local employers and local students, rather than benefiting visitors who will move out of the state after earning their degree.

“This is a smart investment in local students,” he said. “It will pay off later.”

Kilmer also favors loosening restrictions on small businesses, such as forgiving the first offenses for some paperwork fines.

“The vast majority of small businesses comply with the rules,” he said. “When they don’t, it’s usually because of an oversight. It makes sense to provide them with some flexibility.”

Small business support can be awarded tax credits, such as $500 for the creation of each new job.

“We have one of the highest startup rates for small businesses in Washington,” he said. “But we also have one of the highest failure rates. A lot of the failures are because of the high B&O (business and occupation) tax. So if there is any way we can provide incentives here we should be looking at it.” 

Aside from business and education, Kilmer said the state has “a moral obligation to fund people with developmental disabilities.”

The Legislature will convene on Jan. 12. Since this is an odd-numbered year, it will meet for a 105-day period, and will adjourn around April 27.

Kilmer said he encourages people to visit Olympia during the session in order to make their voices heard.

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