State lawmakers this week learned how Valley business leaders feel about the issues that are the Legislature’s business this session.
About 40 members from both the Spokane Area Chamber of Commerce and the Spokane Valley Chamber of Commerce met with legislators here Wednesday and Thursday to voice their concerns on transportation, taxes and higher education.
“This year we really tried to increase our communication with committee chairs and legislators from across the state,” said Robert Henry, chairman of the Valley chamber, of the joint delegation’s annual trip to the Capitol.
The need for a comprehensive transportation package that provides long-term funding was voiced by chamber members, who didn’t throw support to either the GOP transportation plan or the governor’s.
“We came over because we want to advocate that the legislators and governor work toward a balanced, long-term plan for transportation funding,” Henry said.
The chamber delegation urged lawmakers to support a transportation-funding package that would include eliminating the sales tax on transportation projects, allowing the local option of utilizing transit funds for route maintenance and repair, and increasing the gas tax up to seven cents.
Chamber members met Wednesday with Sen. Eugene Prince, chairman of the Transportation Committee, and Sid Morrison, secretary of transportation. They also chewed the issue with Gov. Gary Locke over breakfast on Thursday.
Dan Kirschner, public affairs director for the Spokane chamber, said short-term solutions are usually applied to transportation problems.
“We tend to bite-off transportation in five-year chunks,” he said.
The group advocated the support for Valley projects, including construction of the Evergreen interchange on Interstate 90, the building of additional lanes of I-90 from Sprague Avenue to Harvard Road, and the funding freight-mobility corridor projects. Delegation members also met with the chairs of the House and Senate higher education committees to encourage affordability and accountability in education, and the development of a greater variety of technical training programs.
Dave Broom, chairman of the Spokane chamber, said he felt the trip to the state capital was a success.
‘They told us in essence that it’s helpful,” Broom said of lawmakers’ reaction to the visit by the chamber group. “The legislators were very receptive.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo