Tag Archives: Yakima County

Transportation is topic number one in Olympia

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis picture is an aerial view of Interstate 82 in Yakima (courtesy WSDOT). It’s just one of dozens of projects that would be completed if the latest statewide transportation package is passed into law. But there’s a catch…it comes with an 11.5-cent gas tax increase.

That’s not to say it’s a no-brainer “no” vote. After all, the package proposed by the Majority Coalition Caucus (MCC) also includes landmark reforms that will streamline the state’s transportation system and save taxpayers millions down the road (so to speak). It will also keep the state Department of Transportation accountable for its mistakes and oversights, reduce the regulatory burden on transportation construction projects and ensure tolls are kept in the area where they are enacted, among other things.

The MCC proposal would fully fund two major projects in Yakima County: the east-west corridor overpass and bridge ($45 million) and economic development improvements to I-82 in Union Gap ($56 million). Continue reading

Sunnyside Senator to push for expanding tax breaks for businesses statewide

Senator Jim HoneyfordAfter approving two tax-preference bills designed to bolster the state’s aerospace industry, longtime state Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Yakima, said he’s looking forward to continuing the trend of growing the state’s business community by offering tax incentives.

“The governor called us into a special session in order to pass two bills to keep Boeing in Washington, in exchange for retaining up to 56,000 jobs and creating tens of thousands of new jobs across the state,” said Honeyford, who represents the state’s 15th Legislative District. “That’s not an opportunity that we can just sit on, but I’m concerned about the appearance of the state playing favorites. Now that it’s been widely accepted that certain tax incentives can grow businesses in Washington and in turn provide jobs, I’m going to pursue expanding that policy to other areas beyond aerospace, such as agriculture and small businesses, and I already have a commitment from Boeing that it will help us work to expand these policies.” Continue reading

Ag-related bills in the Legislature

Senate Bill 6392 – Expanded farm internship program. In 2010, the Senate agriculture committee heard testimony that Washington is facing a crisis of aging farmers. The average age is 56, and 70 percent of farmland is expected to change hands in the next 20 years. To help bring young people into farming as a career, the Legislature established a farm internship pilot program for San Juan and Skagit counties in 2011. This on-the-job training opportunity is exempt from minimum wage requirements and unemployment insurance. L&I was directed to create a special industrial insurance risk class for farm interns. SB 6392 expands the farm internship pilot program to Whatcom, Kitsap, Pierce, Jefferson, Spokane, Yakima, Chelan, Grant, Kittitas, Lincoln, and Thurston counties. (Passed the House Labor and Workforce Development Committee on February 21).

Continue reading

Census returns varying widely across 15th Legislative District

The rate of 2010 Census returns are varying widely across Central Washington, and some communities have returned less than 50 percent of the forms.

Here are some figures regarding the four counties in the district (figures as of April 6):
• Clark County: 63 percent (2000 Census participation rate: 76 percent)
• Klickitat County: 59 percent (2000 Census participation rate: 68 percent)
• Skamania County: 52 percent (2000 Census participation rate: 56 percent)
• Yakima County: 62 percent (2000 Census participation rate: 73 percent)

Also of note are these 15th District communities with return rates below 50 percent, and well below the statewide average return rate of 63 percent (figures as of April 6):
• Wapato: 40 percent
• Granger: 44 percent
• Bingen: 46 percent
• Mabton: 47 percent

It is crucial that we do our part for our communities, and one of the most important ways we can make sure our views are represented is by returning our census forms. Making sure the people of our district are fairly represented will ultimately mean more of our hard-earned tax dollars coming back to our communities. In fact, the information the census collects helps to determine how more than 400 billion dollars of federal funding each year is spent on infrastructure and services like hospitals, job training centers, schools, senior centers, and public works projects.

It is vital for those communities to take part in the census.

Our agriculture communities make up the economic backbone of our state. Unfortunately, the interests of farmers and ranchers are often overshadowed by the interests of those in big cities. Given the efforts in Olympia to implement costly new taxes on fertilizer, fuel and small business and farm owners, rural Washingtonians need to speak up and be counted, now more than ever.

In addition, not sending in the simple form means that more tax dollars will be spent on completing the census. The federal government will send someone to knock on doors to complete the count. This would prove costly with almost half the citizens remaining to count.

For additional details, go to www.2010census.gov/2010census/take10map/.

Bill to protect citizens from wildfires passes Senate

I sponsored a measure that would help protect human lives and property from wildfires. It was unanimously approved by the Senate on Monday.

Engrossed Senate Bill 6462 is in response to the Dry Creek fire that destroyed the landmark Silver Dollar Café, on “no man’s land” at the junction of State Route 241 and State Route 24 north of Sunnyside. Legislators representing the portion of Yakima County damaged by the Dry Creek Complex fire held a public meeting in late August to discuss the response to the blaze and how to better handle wildfires in “no man’s land.”

Currently, firefighters are not required to engage in fire suppression efforts if the fire occurs outside the boundaries of their fire protection district. When the Silver Dollar Café burned down, there were firefighters present on the scene, but none of them stepped in to fight the flames, because it was outside of their district.

There are many areas in this state that lack the safeguard of belonging to a fire protection district. The people in those areas need our help; this bill addresses that vital need.

Referred to as the “Good Samaritan” bill, ESB 6462 would essentially say anyone with the equipment and manpower to help should do so. The bill would impose a duty on a firefighter present at the scene of any wildfire to step in if the fire poses a danger to human life or structures, unless the firefighter does not have the resources at the scene to fight the fire in a safe and reasonable manner.

Under the bill, state and municipal firefighters, both paid and volunteer, would be immune from civil liability when fighting a fire outside their jurisdiction and when providing emergency care, rescue, assistance, or recovery services at the scene of an emergency. This immunity would not cover acts of gross negligence or “willful or wanton misconduct.”

The bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration.