26th District lawmakers to speak at South Kitsap forum

The 26th District delegation — including state Sen. Derek Kilmer and Reps. Jan Angel and Larry Seaquist — will be addressing their legislative priorities at the Port Orchard Chamber of Commerce’s community affairs forum next week.

The lawmakers will discuss topics that relate to and affect the needs of the local business community, such as transportation, health insurance, minimum wage and B&O taxes.

One of the issues is to encourage Washington state to freeze ferry fares to further prevent the loss of riders, as well as examining the potential of exempting state ferries from fuel taxes.

Efforts to load more vehicles on larger ferries, increase ferry runs and to allow for a certain number of ferry reservations will also be addressed.

“I always enjoy the opportunity to sit down with our local business and civic leaders, and I appreciate the chamber putting together a forum like this,” said Kilmer. “This year, my focus was again on working to support our small businesses in hopes of helping our state pull out of this difficult time in our economy. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and I was pleased to be a part of pursuing a handful of bills from tax relief to regulatory relief to entrepreneurial assistance to help them weather this storm.

“This year also held some success on the transportation front,” he said. “We successfully passed a bill to keep the state on the hook for maintaining SR-166 in Port Orchard. In addition, I worked hard to help our area avoid an increase in the Narrows Bridge toll. During tough times like these, I dont want to see folks in our neck of the woods face toll increases any sooner than is absolutely necessary.

Kilmer said he was “pleased that we were successful on that front this year, and I’m grateful to the chamber and the others in the community who played an active role in the process.”

Additional subjects are the promotion of flexible, low-cost healthcare coverage by reducing regulatory and legislative requirements that add unnecessary costs, promoting private sector competition and supporting efforts that allow employers to access affordable health plans.

“We have many challenges before us in the Legislature as we work to preserve and improve our state’s quality of life,” Angel noted on her Web page.

“Among my many priorities,” she said, “are to expand higher educational opportunities within the district; improve our local transportation system; ensure a reliable, affordable ferry service; refine the Growth Management Act to make it work better for our local communities; support our veterans and local military operations; and stimulate our economy, create new jobs and support and strengthen local business.

With the state facing a large budget deficit, Angel said, “it will be especially important to protect taxpayers while preserving services for our state’s most vulnerable population.”

“We have to cut costs,” Seaquist said. “Healthcare is taking more and more of the budget of every family, every business, and our state budget.

“I also want extensive reduction in state audits. I discovered that Kitsap Mental Health Service gets six separate audits from the state every year with different teams from different offices combing through the same data. This not only requires extra staff but is costly.

“Our Kitsap health providers invented a way to consolidate all those inspections into one,” Seaquist said. “I wrote an extensive proviso (a condition attached to an agreement) in the 2010 supplemental state budget requiring the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) to overhaul its entire audit program, but Gov. Chris Gregoire vetoed it.”

Business owners will also benefit from discussions surrounding minimum wages and the elimination of B&O tax deductions.

The forum is scheduled for May 12, in the City Hall council chambers, 216 Prospect St., Port Orchard.

Coffee, tea and muffins will be served at 7:30 a.m. with the program beginning at 7:45.

For more information, contact Patti Kirkpatrick at (360) 876-4407, or via email at pkirkpatrick@cityofportorchard.

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