05.22.17

Walk and Chew Gum

What a glorious weekend! The last eight months have affirmed the old saying that here in our state we don’t tan – we rust! In fairness, it’s only really rained twice since October -- once for six months straight, and then again for two months.

But beyond the weather, this weekend saw some amazing celebrations of community. I visited Port Townsend for the Rhododendron Festival Parade and participated in the Armed Forces Day festivities in Bremerton. It was terrific to see so many people, enjoying the sun…and enjoying each other. 

It provided a rather stark (and welcome) contrast to the rancor and dysfunction we’ve seen in our nation’s capital.  

If you follow cable news, you’re bound to get a combination of whiplash and air sickness. Forget a 24-hour news cycle; seemingly every 24 minutes brings a breaking news update.

There are serious and credible allegations of wrongdoing in Washington DC, acts that threaten the integrity of our elections and our democracy. I welcome the appointment of former FBI Director Robert Mueller to conduct an independent investigation of the ties between Russia and the Trump campaign. Because the investigation is solely about determining if laws were broken, I support creating an independent commission to review what Russia did and how to prevent them – or any other foreign actor – from interfering in our democracy in the future.

While those issues consume most of the attention of the press, my focus has been on the needs of our region. I’m a big believer that Congress needs to be able to walk and chew gum at the same time.  Congress should be able to protect our democracy and do the important work of improving economic opportunity. Frankly, a lot of the communities I represent can’t afford to wait. 

We need more jobs and more opportunities in more places. As a former economic development professional, that’s my passion. As your representative, that’s what I’m working on every day.

Congress needs to get cooking on a jobs agenda. We need an education and workforce development system that helps folks get ahead. We need a tax code that helps Main Street employers and encourages investment in the United States – rather than someplace else. Entrepreneurs need to be able to access capital to start a business or to grow their business. And we need 21st century infrastructure that lays the foundation for job growth going forward.

While those issues may not seem like hot topics for MSNBC or Fox News, they need to be hot topics for our federal government if we’re going to have an economy that works better for everyone. In too many communities, our top export is young people. I’m working every day to change that.

Soon, Congress will have an opportunity to work in that regard as it considers a budget for the upcoming fiscal year. Things will kick off tomorrow when the administration releases a proposed budget. Last month we saw a budget blueprint from the administration that cuts education, guts investments in rural communities (including our ag extension programs and rural water systems), eliminates funding for Puget Sound clean-up that our fisheries and shellfish growers depend upon, and undermined many of the programs that help small businesses grow and succeed. I can’t support that. 

I’m going to fight for a budget that helps America grow jobs. Stay tuned in the weeks ahead for updates on how the budget deliberations play out.

Working for jobs  

Speaking of jobs… Recently, I joined with more than 40 of my Democratic colleagues to push the administration to work with us on some of the issues so vital to job growth. Specifically, we believe there’s an opportunity to work on a combined tax reform and infrastructure package that could enhance American competitiveness and put more people to work. 

Both parties agree that American infrastructure simply isn’t measuring up. In fact, the American Society of Civil Engineers 2017 Report Card gave our country’s infrastructure a D+. That’s not good for businesses that need to get products to market or for commuters that need to get to work.

Both parties also agree that our country has a tax code that’s too complicated and that’s uncompetitive. It’s also a tax code that doesn’t work for working families. While there may not be agreement on the specifics of a solution, there may be opportunity to find some common ground.

While we haven’t seen any concrete plans from the administration, the President said in his address to Congress that he wants to work on both of these issues. That would be welcome. When I’m in our neck of the woods, these issues come up all the time. With that in mind, I’m going to push for progress on both fronts. 

You can read our letter here.

A win for students

I recently wrote to you about the government funding bill that passed Congress earlier this month bipartisan support. That bill made a significant change that would help students in our region, strengthening the Pell Grant program, a financial aid program that helps middle class and less well-off students pay for college. While it didn’t get a lot of attention, the bill made a significant reform, allowing those grants to be used year-round.

To read more about why this matters, follow this link to my blog.

Celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

I hope you’ll join me in celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Every day in our region, these communities make it a more diverse and rewarding place to live. I shared my thoughts on this rich history and how I look forward to continuing to work with our Asian American and Pacific Islander communities to keep building a stronger nation. I hope you’ll give it a watch!

Holland on the Hill

Last week, as co-chair of the Congressional Dutch Caucus, I participated in an event put on by the Dutch Embassy to highlight the ties between the Netherlands and the United States.  My mom and grandma are Dutch-Americans, so I admit to having a special place in my heart for Holland. Unlike my Dutch Caucus Co-chair, Representative Bill Huizenga, I don’t speak Dutch (but I sort of understand it when my mom and grandma are talking about me). 

Early Dutch settlers to the United States played an important role in developing our nation’s passion for entrepreneurship and hard work. We continue to have important economic and security relationships that are a mutual benefit. We need to keep the shared bond between our nations alive.

A new (cyber) attack

Last week a global hacking attack struck businesses, governments, and institutions from South Korea to England to the US. This was the first time we’ve seen ransomware – where hackers lock up personal and sensitive data and ask for money to return it – on such a massive scale. But this isn’t a new phenomenon. For years criminal hackers have been stealing data and asking for money in return.

A year ago, I wrote to the FBI and asked them to take steps to ensure American organizations and individuals had the resources they need to defend themselves against ransomware attacks. It’s important we establish some rules of the road and explain how folks can better protect themselves. The United States has to do more to stop hackers from holding our IT systems hostage.

Take a look at my letter here.

Working for you

Apprenticeships and training are important. They can be key tools in helping people gain new skills and new job opportunities. With that in mind, I was inspired to see the work being done at the Northwest-Laborers-Employers Training and Apprenticeship School in Kingston.

I also visited West Sound Technical Skills Center in Bremerton to meet with students who are learning trades like welding, mechanics, and cooking. These students and educators are doing amazing work.  There are so many success stories of graduates of these programs getting great job opportunities.  That’s why I’m such a big believer in giving folks the opportunity to learn a trade. The federal government needs to understand the value of that. A big thank you to some awesome welders-in-training who made this Darth Vader bust for display in my D.C. office!

Speaking of talented students…I recently got together with some talented local artists – who happen to still be in school! It was all a part of my annual Congressional Art Competition. Congratulations to Amaya Belden-Reeves for taking first place with her work entitled ‘Amidst Reality.’ I can’t wait to welcome her to Washington D.C. to hang her painting up at the Capitol. Thanks to everyone who showed up and celebrated the submissions of so many talented young people.

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Having clean, quality water that is accessible to all families is important for our communities. I enjoyed sitting down with the leaders of the Silverdale Water District to learn more about their innovations - like using recycled water - to help keep our community growing in a sustainable way!

In our region it’s important that working families have access to affordable housing. I want to thank Michael and April with the Tacoma Housing Authority for giving me an update on the organization’s investments in Hilltop and expanded programs to serve low-income students and foster kids. As a member of the Appropriations Committee I’m going to continue supporting tools that combat homelessness and help folks in need access housing.

Our men and women in uniform have sacrificed and worked hard to protect us. That's why I am honored to attend events like the Bremerton Armed Forces Day Parade. It was humbling to see the community out supporting the brave men and women that protect our nation, and the enthusiastic involvement from the many local organizations and businesses. Saturday evening, I also had the honor of introducing the Armed Forces Day Parade’s Grand Marshall and the evening’s keynote speaker Vice Admiral Nora Tyson, Commander of the 3rd Fleet. Admiral Tyson is a trailblazer, becoming the first woman to command a Naval Fleet. 

OK .. that’s all for now.  As always, I’m honored to represent you.


Sincerely,
 
Derek Kilmer