Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I-5 bridge over Skagit River collapses
Thankfully no people were killed last Thursday with the tragic collapse of the 1-5 Bridge over the Skagit River near Mt. Vernon, Washington. Reports are three people were pulled from the water and suffered only minor injuries. Authorities are reporting the bridge collapsed after a semi-truck with an oversized load struck a steel beam of the bridge at 7:00 p.m. Thursday night. The impact caused a large section of the northern side of the bridge to collapse into the Skagit River. There is an investigation being launched by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and Gov. Inslee has declared a state of emergency in order to receive federal funding. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood authorized $1 million in emergency funding. Other sources are confirming there will be additional funding provided although exact details are still forthcoming.
Sadly, Columbia River Crossing proponents wasted no time in correlating the unfortunate collapse of the Skagit Valley Bridge with the proposed I-5 bridge replacement project in Southwest Washington. Emotional arguments have no merit in this discussion. Let's get the facts from the NTSB before we rush to judgment on other transportation structures that are currently being used safely by the traveling public.
This tragic bridge collapse underscores the important need for Washington legislators to focus on maintenance and preservation of existing state highways and bridges instead of spending tax dollars to build prohibitively expensive light rail projects that move less than three percent of commuters and do very little to improve congestion or improve freight mobility!
Special session entering week four
I imagine if Republicans were in charge of the state House of Representatives, we would have finished our 2013-15 biennium budget before the end of regular session on April 28. The Senate Majority Coalition made up of 23 Republicans and 2 Democrats passed a proposed budget on time that added approximately $1.2 billion to public education funding without raising any taxes. In contrast, the House controlling Democrats insisted on passing a budget that increased taxes by over $879 million. These proposed new taxes will continue to hurt our state's economy and will do nothing to help us get out of this recession.
It's also important to note that both budgets included spending another $2 billion in anticipated revenues. Yes, that's right, state budget forecasters are predicting an additional $2 billion in revenues in 2013-15. Apparently, an extra $2 billion wasn't enough for the House Majority Party.
This budget impasse forced the legislature into a 30-day special session which began May 13. We are currently in a rolling recess which is considerably less expensive than the cost of keeping us in Olympia until a final budget deal could be negotiated. When we are called back to vote on a final budget, I will vote “NO” on any proposal that raises taxes. I will keep you informed of any progress made to finalize a state budget.
I wish to congratulate Ridgefield School District as it begins construction on the first new school facilities in over 20 years. A groundbreaking ceremony was held on May 9 at a construction site located between Union Ridge Elementary School and View Ridge Middle School. At the event Superintendent Art Edgerly thanked the Ridgefield community for passing the bond last February which enabled the construction of the district's new facilities. “We are very thankful for the patrons' approval of the $47 million bond,” said Edgerly. “Here we are, 15 months later, beginning construction on all three of our school campuses!”
According to community leaders representing the Bond Advisory Team and Citizens for Ridgefield Schools, no renovations have taken place in the school district in over 20 years since the previous bond passed in 1991. I want to personally thank Ridgefield School Board Chair Julie Olson and Superintendent Art Edgerly for their steady leadership at the helm of this vibrant school district.
Fond Farewell to Skills Center Director Dennis Kampe!
After more than three decades of exemplary leadership at the Clark County Skills Center, Dennis Kampe will retire as its director on August 31. Please join me in honoring Dennis Kampe at his retirement dinner this Friday, May 31 at Heathman Lodge. I salute Dennis for his many years of service at the skills center, touching thousands of young lives in a such a powerful and positive way. Under his leadership, the Clark County Skills Center has become one of the finest programs in the state to provide technical and professional training programs to prepare Clark County high school students for the workplace. His Career and Technical Training legacy will live on. Thank you Dennis Kampe for all you have done at our Skills Center since 1991. You will be missed.
As always, it's my highest honor to serve the citizens of the 18th District. Please call or email with any comments or concerns.
"Protecting life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness!"