Legislators representing the 5th Legislative District, which includes Maple Valley, visited the Maple Valley-Black Diamond Chamber of Commerce at its luncheon meeting Wednesday and offered the business group’s members their perspective on this year’s session of the Legislature.
Reps. Jay Rodne and Glenn Anderson and Sen. Cheryl Pflug, all Republicans, checked off the good, the bad and the things to watch.
“A lot of the tough decisions were been put off until next year, after (this fall’s) elections,” Rodne said.
Rodne talked about bills he and his seatmates supported that strengthened penalties against gang members and related violence, as well as identity theft and the battle against methamphetamine.
He said he was also pleased that a bill he sponsored to provide relief to homeowners at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure passed. The bill will require that loan documents clearly explain to people exactly what they’re getting into when they sign on the dotted line for a mortgage.
Another significant project Rodne has worked on, the State Route 169 development plan, has been completed by the state Department of Transportation. It outlines improvements that need to be made to the corridor.
“The details are on the (DOT) Web site if you want to check out the results,” Rodne said.
Transportation was a major theme during the session, Anderson said, including how important projects are going to be funded.
“Since that nine-and-a-half-cent gas tax passed four years ago, the cost of inflation for construction materials – whether it’s concrete or asphalt – has been so significant,” Anderson said. “Projects that were promised that are years out are at risk.”
At this point, he said, the transportation budget is “$2 billion upside down with a shortfall. Right now, the project for (SR-169/Maple Valley Highway) is safe and we’re going to fight to keep it on the books. We have to come up with more than gas tax to make funding more efficient.”
Pflug said that it would have been nice if the Legislature could have found a way to put more into roads before the session ended last month.
“Transportation is a mess,” she said. “In a time when you have additional revenue, it would have been nice to see some of that money go toward transportation.”
Anderson suggested that the Legislature ought to review its spending habits next year.
“Your rate of spending is twice your rate of income growth,” Anderson said. “Ask yourself, ‘Are my kids smarter? Can I get to work quicker?’ You be the judge of if any of those things have been fixed.”
But the final decisions about a number of key issues won’t be made until the 2009 legislative session, Anderson said, and “I urge you to be attentive.”
Pflug said the state’s budget this year is $33 billion. “When you spend that much money, you can’t help but do good things, particularly in education,” she said. “I don’t believe the Legislature really addressed the fundamental problems. We did get salary increases for classified employees and also for teachers, but we weren’t able to put the clause in there for (salary increases for) all classified employees.”
She was also happy the Legislature made some changes in how its members can communicate with their constituents electronically, and that to some extent the lawmakers were able to drag themselves into the 21st century.
Like Anderson, Pflug is concerned with not just how the state is spending its money now, but how the Legislature might allocate in the future.
“In some ways ,the good news is we didn’t do much. Most of the damage was done last year (2007),” she said. “The bad news is that some of the things that are being discussed are fairly frightening. Without doing much, we have still arrived at a situation where with a 6 percent increase in revenue, we still spent 16 percent more.”
There will be a fair amount to chew on during the rest of 2008, the 5th District legislators advised.
“We are going to see a very important and classic discussion on two different philosophies in how to do government,” Pflug said.
In addition to Maple Valley, where Pflug lives, the 5th District includes North Bend, Issaquah, Sammamish and parts of rural King County.
Staff writer Kris Hill can be reached at (425) 432-1209 (extension 5054) and email@example.com