Friday, January 22, 2021

Goehner, Steele, Hawkins prepare for upcoming legislative session

by Angelica Relente
| January 12, 2021 1:00 AM

District 12 state legislators are looking to address the ongoing economic effects of COVID-19 with legislation.

Rep. Keith Goehner, R-Dryden, said it will be important for legislators to ensure they address the maintenance and preservation needs of the state. Goehner is a ranking member of the Local Government Committee. He is also on the Transportation and the Environment and Energy committees.

Goehner said funding accumulated from fuel tax has gone down due to the lack of people traveling.

“We’ve got a number of holes to fill,” Goehner said.

In the twelfth district, Goehner said there are bridges in need of repair, as well as other projects yet to begin. One of the projects includes implementing more passing lanes throughout the district.

“It will be a real challenge for us to ensure that DOT has the money that they need to keep our roads and bridges safe and in good repair,” Goehner said.

Rep. Mike Steele, R-Chelan, said writing the budget for the state will consume most of his time. Steele has the ranking seat in the Capital Budget Committee and is a member of the Appropriations and Education committees.

Steele said the state’s capital budget is typically bipartisan and usually passes the House floor with no objections.

“We spend an exorbitant amount of time making sure that we really do understand the priorities of the whole state and work together as Republicans and Democrats to craft a really fitting budget,” Steele said.

The capital budget creates economic development across the state, Steele said, and one of the priorities for the budget is to help people return to work and help small businesses recover.

Sen. Brad Hawkins, R-East Wenatchee, said he likely will sponsor two or three bills. Hawkins serves as a ranking member in the Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee. He is also in the Transportation and the State Government and Elections committees.

Hawkins said he is helping develop a bill that clarifies the authority school districts have in opening and closing schools.

“I think we should make clear that school districts and their locally elected school boards are the ones who should be solely responsible for some of these decisions,” Hawkins said.

A bill Hawkins is sponsoring, Senate Bill 5000, aims to create an eight-year pilot tax incentive program for vehicles powered by hydrogen. A portion of the sales and use tax on the vehicle’s fuel would also be exempt temporarily, according to the bill.

“Currently, our state provides an incentive to purchasers of battery electric vehicles (and) plug-in electric vehicles,” Hawkins said. “I think we should extend the same sales tax incentive to others zero emissions vehicles like hydrogen vehicles.”

Hawkins said he is also working with the Department of Natural Resources and other groups to analyze how electric lines interact with wildfire for a bill.

Hawkins said the biggest issue legislators need to tackle is making sure the state’s economy is fully restarted, as a lot of businesses and families are struggling.

“If we restrict the economy too much, then we’re going to be really struggling and looking at either some cutbacks, or some legislators will propose tax increases,” Hawkins said. “It gets difficult.”

Goehner said businesses are driven by people who have a dream and desire to provide a service and product for their community — something missing at this point.

“We cannot, as a state or a nation, live on stimulus,” Goehner said. “We have to reach a point where we can allow businesses to do what they want and need to do.”