Legislative session ends with a North Kitsap edge

OLYMPIA — As the state Legislative session for 2007 ends, the numbers are rolling in for North End causes — leaving everyone pretty happy with the outcome.

The Suquamish Tribe, Kingston Village Green, Miller Lake, Poulsbo Marine Science Center and the Carpenter Creek Estuary all received funding from the capital budget, as well as other county groups. Twenty-third District Rep. Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo) said she and others pushed for an extra $53 million for the county, which allowed several projects funding that wouldn’t have otherwise been awarded it.

“We pushed so we could fund a longer list than we would have without the extra money,” she said. “That’s how Kingston Village Green received funds. If we hadn’t pushed, they wouldn’t have gotten funding. Suquamish went through a competitive process and won the competition for their grants.”

Along with funding came new bills, some focused specifically on the hot topic of ferries. House Bill 2358 and Senate Bill 5862 were both delivered to Gov. Christine Gregoire, and both Appleton and 23rd District Rep. Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island) agree they were among some of the most important legislation passed for North Kitsap residents.

“One of the biggest wins was to have the ferry legislative moved through,” she said. “That’s a big win, one of the biggest things we gained.”

The bill will allow the May 1 2.5 percent fare hike, but freeze any other increases until fall 2009 so Washington State Ferry’s income system can undergo a thorough examination and restructuring. The bill almost failed in the Senate, but passed after heated negotiations.

“We also passed legislation that keeps the possibility open for a passenger-only ferry in the North End,” Rolfes said of SB 5862, which will push the deadline for passenger-only ferry plans from November 2006 to November 2007. “It was a good session for ferries.”

“The 2.5 percent increase is not what I wanted,” Appleton said. “But it’s what we had to do to compromise, and the ferry system is now going to be studied.”

State Sen, Phil Rockefeller tackled his own set of issues with a list of bills ranging from the health of Puget Sound to public school transportation. Many districts, including North Kitsap, base their student body on a “as the crow flies” method, as opposed to how the neighborhood are laid out around the schools, he said. Senate Bill 5114 works to create a formula in the next year to change the methods the districts use in planning out their transportation.

“The transportation formula would help with the under funding districts are dealing with,” Rockefeller said. “Many local districts are using levy dollars to pay for their transportation costs, when in reality it should be paid by the state. We brought an extra $25 million into the budget without the new formula to fill that gap in funding.”

Both representatives and Rockefeller said they have several more issues to hash out and will be prepared with them during next year’s session. Rolfes has said she will continue to work on Puget Sound bills to ensure its restoration and continued health. Appleton is still tackling education and health care, and both plan to continue work with WSF to cease the fare increases, which will be welcomed news to commuters. Rolfes plans to discuss the ferry system, HB 2358 and what it means for residents at an public meeting at 6:30 p.m. May 1 at the Kingston Community Center.

“There are a lot of things that didn’t get done,” Appleton said. “We’ll work on them next year. We’re just going to have to keep working at it. I think we really did things this year, and that makes me happy.”

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