More funds coming to Peninsula

Lawmakers: Investments being made in district

Mike Chapman.

Mike Chapman.

Additional funding is coming to the 24th Legislative District for education, behavioral health and the environment following the end of the state Legislature’s 2024 session.

State Reps. Steve Tharinger, D-Port Townsend, and Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles, and Sen. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Lake Sutherland, told constituents during a telephone town hall on Tuesday that the Legislature’s short session tried to address myriad community issues.

“In a supplemental budget, we moved the needle forward without raising taxes,” Chapman said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Mike Chapman.

Mike Chapman.

The Legislature had increased spending on education, including funding for school construction and special education, Chapman said.

“We’re still not meeting the entire need though,” he said.

The state’s supplemental capital budget included $306 million for school construction and the operating budget included $333 million, with $77.5 million of that for transportation and $45 million for the state’s free meal program, according to the Washington State Standard.

Special education spending was increased by $27 million and nearly $72 million set aside to increase staff salaries as determined by local school districts.

During the meeting, constituents asked about funding for seismic retrofits to the district’s schools, but Tharinger, who chairs the House budget committee, said the Peninsula was not a state priority in that area.

“What we’re doing at the state level is we’re looking at districts where there are actual (seismic) faults,” Tharinger said. “Neither Port Angeles nor Sequim are high on the list for seismic adjustments.”

The state also included funding for childcare facilities in Port Angeles and $5 million for the construction of a technical training center for high school students in Sequim known as the Center of Excellence.

Also included in the capital budget was $15 million to help the Jamestown Healing Clinic in Sequim construct a psychiatric facility.

Homelessness and the ongoing opioid epidemic are always a topic of concern for constituents, the delegation said, and the operating budget included $51 million for drug prevention services in K-12 schools.

The Legislature also passed a law reforming police pursuit procedures in the state, reversing laws that were passed several years ago following the death of George Floyd.

“That essentially neutralized the previous work the Legislature has done on police pursuits,” Van De Wege said of the legislation.

Steve Tharinger.

Steve Tharinger.

Tharinger said much of the money that’s been allocated in the budget depends on the state’s Climate Commitment Act, which established a cap-and-trade market for greenhouse gas emissions. There’s an initiative on the November ballot to repeal the act, which Tharinger said would jeopardize more than $700 million in funding for forest lands, riparian environments, salmon recovery and HVAC installation in schools and other public buildings.

“That would be devastating,” Tharinger said. “That will eliminate a lot of the funding for the work that we’re trying to do.”

Another initiative seeks to repeal Washington’s capital gains tax, which would also hurt state budgets, Tharinger said.

“Voting no on those initiatives will help maintain that funding,” he said.

All three delegation members are up for re-election this year, but only Tharinger is looking to remain in his current seat.

Kevin Van De Wege.

Kevin Van De Wege.

Van De Wege is running for Commissioner of Public Lands, a statewide position that heads the Department of Natural Resources, a post currently held by Hilary Franz, who was running for governor before suspending that campaign to seek outgoing U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer’s congressional seat.

“My office will be open until the end of the year,” Van De Wege said. “I tell our constituents it’s been a pleasure serving them and public lands commissioner is something that’s important for the Olympic Peninsula. I look forward to representing them in that capacity.”

Chapman announced he will seek Van De Wege’s Senate seat, as has Quilcene Republican Marcia Kelbon, a chemical engineer and attorney currently serving as a Quilcene Fire District commissioner.

There are currently four candidates for Chapman’s seat, Democrats Adam Bernbaum, Eric Pickens and Nathan Tyler, and Republican Matthew Roberson.

Tharinger, who serves in the 24th District Position 2 House seat, currently has no challengers registered with the state Public Disclosure Commission.

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Reporter Peter Segall can be reached at peter.segall@peninsulanews.us.

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