A Need for Leadership

When I was kid growing up in Port Angeles, I played on a pee-wee soccer team called the Maroon Monsters. We were a decent team though, as kids, we could often be more interested in bugs in the grass than in kicking the ball.

I remember our coach occasionally shouting from the sideline, “Get in the game, guys!” 

He reminded us that staying with it doesn’t just mean you’ll have a better chance to score. It also teaches you a thing or two about leadership and working together toward a common goal.

I was reminded of my coach’s lessons when I watched President Trump announce at the White House that the United States would withdraw from the landmark Paris climate agreement. Folks from all over the political spectrum – including former Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney and numerous former secretaries of state – noted this isn’t just bad for our planet. It’s also a bad sign for American leadership.

I think it’s shameful that when it comes to the climate challenge our world faces, the United States is going from being a captain to riding the bench with only two other countries – Syria and Nicaragua. This is not the time for our nation to step away from the world stage.

Just look at our region. Tribal members and coastal homeowners facing rising waters, shellfish growers watching changing ocean chemistry hurt their operations, and firefighters wrestling with more severe forest fires will tell you climate change is here to stay. President Trump should listen to the American people who are not just demanding action – but leadership – to counter the impacts of climate change.

Other countries have acknowledged that there are extraordinary opportunities to grow jobs and new industries tied to a low-carbon future. Business leaders here in the United States have embraced that there are opportunities for innovation in clean energy and smart grid technologies. 

I’ll keep pushing for our country to get in the game when it comes to combating climate change.

Working for a smarter budget

Unfortunately, the last couple weeks also saw a step backward in trying to pull together a responsible budget. Making progress on a budget requires clear eyes and a willingness to work for common ground. The President’s proposed budget does not help. It was, in a word, unserious. 

First off, the president’s budget fails to make a serious effort at addressing our nation’s long-term fiscal challenges. Real progress in addressing our nation’s debt problem will require tough choices – not gimmicks. This budget includes literally hundreds of billions of dollars of savings from “non-specified reductions.” In other words, it says “trust me – we’ll come up with something.” More than a $100 billion in savings comes from timing shifts and one-time gimmicks. The largest presumed savings comes from an assumption of an additional half-trillion dollars in a single year by assuming a substantially greater rate of economic growth than economists say is reasonable.

What’s worse, the budget proposes cuts that make economic growth much less likely.

For example, despite bipartisan agreement that our nation needs to invest in infrastructure, the President’s budget cuts infrastructure investment. When I recently visited Port Townsend and met with business owners, I heard about the importance of funding for sewer expansion to help businesses grow. Unfortunately, the Trump budget completely eliminates the loan programs that help rural communities invest in water and wastewater systems. When I met with a business association in Tacoma last month, I heard about the importance of light rail investments. Unfortunately, the President’s budget eliminates the TIGER Grant Program that has helped fund numerous road and transit projects in our region.  

In addition, the budget hits education hard. It proposes reductions in funding for K-12 schools as well as professional development funding for principals and teachers. In my recent round of town hall meetings at colleges and universities in our region, I heard a consistent concern about rising student debt. Unfortunately, the Trump budget proposes cutting financial aid to college students, eliminating federal student loan programs, halving funding for federal work study and freezing Pell Grants. 

We’ve seen the Economic Development Administration provide grants that have helped build the new composite recycling facility in Port Angeles and support the redevelopment of downtown Bremerton. Unfortunately, the Trump budget completely eliminates funding for the Economic Development Administration. 

It also takes a hammer to priorities that are critical to our local communities. Federal investments in coastal resiliency that help coastal towns and cities deal with a rising sea and more severe storms would be no more. The same goes for funding an earthquake early warning system that provides us with eyes and ears if ‘the big one’ hits. Programs within the Forest Service that help timber communities would also disappear.

Overall, I come away believing that this budget doesn’t reflect the values or the priorities of our region.  Folks in our region want better roads and schools, more middle class jobs, and a brighter future for their kids. That’s why I’ll be working for a smarter budget – one that reflects our values, helps us grow our economy, and makes real choices to deal with our fiscal challenges.

When talking about issues like what we should do with the budget it’s important to me that I hear directly from the people I represent. So next week I’m holding a telephone town hall that you are invited to call into. Read on for details about how to RSVP for it.

Telephone Town Hall 

Wednesday, June 14 at 6 pm

To participate, please send an email with your name and phone number tokilmer.teletownhall@mail.house.gov by 3pm Pacific on Tuesday, June 13. If you sign up before the deadline, you will receive a phone call at 6:00pm on Wednesday, June 14 inviting you to participate in the town hall.

Giving a Boost to America’s ‘Best Idea’

If you’ve visited our national parks lately you’ll notice they face a good problem. Record numbers of families, campers, and adventurers are spending time each year exploring these iconic landscapes. That’s put strains on many of the roads visitors drive on, the centers that provide history, and the trails themselves.

I’ve put together a bipartisan plan – called the National Park Service Legacy Act – to make sure our national parks remain well maintained for years to come. My hope is that this bill will help better protect places like Olympic National Park for future generations and ensure that our parks continue to create economic opportunities in our region. 

For a deeper dive into what our bill does and why it’s personal for me, check out this blog post on my website. The Tacoma News Tribune also put together a great write-up on why this matters. You can read that here.

Commemorating Memorial Day

This year, I was honored to stand with a variety of community members to thank veterans for their service—and to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. Our country is stronger and our world is safer because of the extraordinary service of those who sacrificed for us.

We should never forget the servicemembers who have left us too early. As your representative, I take my responsibility seriously to ensure that those who currently serve are supported.

Working for You

I had another busy week running from pillar to post throughout our region. Here are some of the highlights!

I judged the Port Orchard Seagull Festival wings contest. Nothing like starting the day with 11 different wings. Congratulations to Amy's on the Bay for their winning wings! Truly delicious!

The Port Orchard Seagull Calling Contest may be one of the coolest events ever (Tess actually does a decent call).

The new NFL Hall of Fame exhibit at the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma is phenomenal. We got to see the Seahawks Super Bowl trophy. Sophie and Tess got to meet some Seagals (after we got Tess unstuck from a cast of Jerome Bettis's thigh). I also got to see that Bern Brostek's bicep is slightly bigger than mine. So much cool stuff!!!

We need to make sure the federal government is stepping up its cyber capabilities – whether it comes to protecting sensitive information, critical infrastructure, financial assets, or even the integrity of our democracy. In our region, we have some impressive cybersecurity companies that are creating jobs and keeping our data safe. Recently, I visited Infoblox in Tacoma, a company that is expanding substantially. For firms like Infoblox, betting on Tacoma as a growth hub for this promising industry makes tremendous sense. 

We need to make sure that seniors in our region can live with dignity. I spent time with the folks at The Mustard Seed Project on the Key Peninsula. Their mission is to create an elder-friendly KP by offering innovative programs and resources to seniors. I enjoyed learning about the exciting things happening in Key Center, including their plans for new senior housing!

Thanks to KBTC General Manager DeAnne Hamilton and Tacoma icon Willie Stewart for presenting me with the William P Mohler Community Impact Award. KBTC does outstanding work to extend early learning opportunities to kids in our region. I'm honored to consider them partners and was touched by the recognition.

I also visited the West Sound Wildlife Shelter on Bainbridge Island. In addition to teaching me about the amazing work they do to help injured and orphaned wildlife, they helped me conquer my fear of opossums! Last year WSWS offered 1,700 injured, orphaned, and sick wildlife a second chance at life. They answered over 6,000 conflict calls and reached 1,200 children and adults with educational programs.

Instead of letting unused school food go to waste in a landfill, students at Bremerton’s Armin Jahr Elementary have figured out how to get it to families in need. I joined them for breakfast and to learn more about the Bremerton School District's Food Share Program. This unique partnership between the Environmental Protection Agency and local schools recycles unused and untampered food items with the help of the Salvation Army and local food banks. Teaching students to be conscientious and thoughtful with unused food is doing great things for our community! Thanks for letting me stop by!

OK – that’s it for this time.  As always, I’m honored to represent you!

Derek Kilmer