From the Wahkiakum County Eagle

The Washington State Legislature included funding for covid-19 response in the recently passed budget, Senator Dean Takko, D-19, said during the round table.

Initially, there was a $2 million appropriation for virus response and another billion in support programs, and with a two-thirds majority vote, the legislature could appropriate money from the $3.5 billion in the Rainy Day Fund, which is only to be used in emergencies.

“This won’t come close to solving our problems,” he said. “Nobody had any idea of how bad it would be.

“Gov. Jay Inslee did a good job of vetoing items from the budget to reduce spending,” Takko commented. Inslee vetoed some appropriations which Takko supported, but the senator said everyone lost expenditures, and the goal of freeing money for covid-19 response is worth it.

The adverse covid-19 impact on the economy will affect state revenues. The legislature will face a tremendous challenge next session to deal with loss of gasoline tax revenue for the Transportation Budget, and the legislature is waiting for resolution of a court case challenging the initiative to lower vehicle license fees.

Takko added that he and other Democrat senators have written to Inslee to ask him to allow construction on single-family and other housing to resume.

Broadband internet funding sought

Takko and other officials agreed that the pandemic crisis shows the need for funding of expanded high speed, broadband internet access in the county and other rural areas of the state.

“I think the virus has highlighted our need for rural broadband,” said Wahkiakum PUD Commissioner Gene Healy, a member of a committee trying to expand broadband county wide.

Sen. Takko agreed, pointing to difficulties students have accessing their studies from home computers.

“It just reinforces what we already knew,” Takko said.

Poor internet service is impeding the work-at-home efforts of Health and Human Services employees and their clients, Bischoff said.

“Almost daily, that comes to our attention,” he said.

“I saw, on Facebook, where a student had to sit in a car in the high school parking lot to connect to wifi,” Healy said. “I think, that as a society, we’re better than that.”

Officials: Resume hunting, fishing

Commissioners also said they would like to see the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife allow fishing and hunting this year.

The department ordered some spring seasons closed earlier this month and is considering closures of other seasons later this year.

Commissioners said they would draft a letter for signature next week to request the opening of the seasons.

By Rick Nelson