Bakke keeps an eye on Olympia

Phil Bakke will help plead Island County’s numerous cases as he serves on the Washington State Association of Counties’ Legislative Steering Committee.

The freshman county commissioner will join 36 colleagues from 30 counties in Olympia every two weeks during the duration of the 60-day legislative session that began Monday.

Bakke said the committee is responsible for bringing forward issues that most affect county citizens. The group is a bi-partisan melting pot comprised of representatives from both rural and urban jurisdictions.

“The number one thing on the front burner is the ferry situation,” he said. “That is a federally designated emergency evacuation route; a state highway of national security. And it’s a huge inconvenience that affects our lives and the business community.”

The commissioner said lip service will not suffice. Even with the truncated 60-day legislative session, an immediate — and lasting — solution is required.

“A solution needs to be found this session and it needs to be implemented right away,” Bakke said.

He also plans to leverage the association to help legislators understand the disparity between the money needed to provide quality health and human services and the actual money provided.

“State money doesn’t adjust for inflation,” Bakke said. “I want the counties to work with the Legislature to come up with a more stable and realistic funding system. I’ve watched this as an outsider and thought, no business would operate like this.”

The commissioner will also be vocal about unfunded mandates that place counties in precarious fiscal positions.

“The state will finance a required program for one or two years and then the burden shifts to the county,” he said. “These shifts put a great deal of pressure on counties to raise local taxes to fund state mandates.”

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