February 13, 2014

How a wolf overpass figures in the state transportation debate

By: Jason Hagey   Comments: 2
Rep. Joel Kretz, R-Wauconda, speaks Thursday at AWB's Lobby Lunch gathering. Photo: Brian Mittge/AWB
A proposed wildlife overpass over Highway 97 is a factor in the statewide transportation debate, proving once again that all politics is local.

While it's certainly not among the biggest sticking points in the Legislature's long-running debate over transportation, the fact that it's an issue at all might come as a surprise to anyone outside of Rep. Joel Kretz's district in Eastern Washington.

Kretz, R-Wauconda, shared the details Thursday at AWB's weekly Lobby Lunch meeting.

According to Kretz, who spoke shortly before the Senate Majority Coalition unveiled a new proposal, the transportation package that lawmakers had been debating did little to address the real needs in his district.

It did not, for example, include funding to address the problem of school buses and log trucks struggling to share a bridge in Omak that was built during the Model T era, he said.

Instead, Kretz said, "We get two wildlife overpasses north of Tonasket so we can move the wolves around the district a little better."

He went on: "And then we get some bike paths, which you know bike riding is just a huge sport in my district."

The package not only fails to address real transportation needs around the state, but it's also a "slap in the face" to people in his district, Kretz said.

The comments illustrate why lawmakers have struggled to reach agreement on a package to fix current transportation infrastructure, build new projects and reform the way the Department of Transportation carries out its work.

Kretz's frustration and concern that rural Washington is being overlooked carried over to the topic of government regulation. He used the Kinross Gold Corporation's struggle to obtain permission to drill a two-and-a-half inch hole in the ground as evidence of the need to streamline regulation.

Rep. JT Wilcox, R-Yelm, joined Kretz at the Lobby Lunch gathering, and he also addressed transportation, offering some advice to anyone who hopes to persuade lawmakers to vote for a package. His suggestion: Sell voters on the idea, not just legislators.

"We have to answer to them," Wilcox said.

Wilcox also downplayed a crowdfunding bill that House members approved Wednesday, saying that Democrats will try to use it as evidence of their support for business when in fact it's not a "super meaningful" bill.

Meanwhile, Democrats are pushing for other measures, such as mandatory paid sick leave, that would hurt businesses, he said.

Finally, Wilcox called for businesses to oppose legislation that threatens to destroy personal privacy in the name of transparency. 

"Government should open and transparent. The economy and people's private lives do not have to be open in every case," he said.

Watch the talk:

 


Comments



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