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Chandler Talks About Budget, Bridge, Dam, Other Key Issues In Recent Visit

Interview with state Rep. Bruce Chandler.

State Rep. Bruce Chandler has represented the 15th Legislative District for the past four years in the Washington House of Representatives.

Chandler, a Republican who lives in Granger, serves on the Legislature's Commerce & Labor Committee, as well as the Agriculture & Ecology committee.

He came to The Enterprise office on March 22 to discuss some of the issues of importance to citizens of this part of Klickitat County.

Chandler, who first won election to the House in 1998, said he plans to run for a third two-year term in the Washington House in the fall.

THE ENTERPRISE:

You co-sponsored a major water management bill, HB 3001, that passed the Washington House recently. What is the current status of the legislation?

REP. CHANDLER:

It passed the Senate, and it's on the governor's desk. I don't know if he intends to sign it. I expect him to. An emergency clause in the bill takes effect immediately {upon the governor's signature}, because waiting 90 days might be too late to take advantage of this year's water situation.

But it's a very modest bill in contrast to the issues we started out to address last fall.

THE ENTERPRISE:

What do you think about the state's projected budget for next year?

REP. CHANDLER:

Essentially, it's not a sustainable budget. I expect we'll have deficits by next January easily in excess of $1 billion. I think that's reckless. The budget is balanced with gambling, tobacco, and alcohol. That shouldn't be the cornerstone of public finance. We had the opportunity to make real reforms in managing the bureaucracy, and we failed to do that.

We may run out of cash before the end of the year. Because of the precarious nature of this budget, it will probably be back to a special session this year.

THE ENTERPRISE:

What is your view on the proposed transportation funding package, passed by the Legislature, that voters will vote on this November?

REP. CHANDLER:

The transportation funding package calls for an increase of nine cents a gallon of gas, and a one percent increase in the car-truck sales tax. I voted against it.

There is too much uncertainty in how they prioritized projects and uncertainty in the economy. It's been a very difficult issue due to uncertainties over which projects will get the money, particularly in the rural areas of the state. It's a terrible time to raise the costs of doing business, and the costs for people getting to and from work -- if they're lucky enough to have work.

The new revenue would be almost entirely spent in the Puget Sound area, I-5 corridor.

THE ENTERPRISE:

What is your view on the possible removal of Condit Dam?

REP. CHANDLER:

I do think FERC needs to be cautious about coming to a decision. They need to look at the facts and not have any other agendas. There are really significant risks in removing the dam. Environmental damage could be considerable and could change the fish habitat upriver as well. I'm not sure that in the end we'll have any benefits.

It's unfortunate it gets so politicized.

THE ENTERPRISE:

Energy is a key issue in recent years. Do you have insights into what is going on with the new power plant under construction in Goldendale, and what will happen to it?

REP. CHANDLER:

The Goldendale Energy Center plant, I'm told, will be completed on schedule. It's an important asset for our region.

Unfortunately, being in the minority party in the Legislature, there are not as many committee seats, so I lost my seat on the Energy Committee. And energy is a fundamental issue for our future as a state.

I'm mostly concerned with exploring ways to get the economy healthy and growing again. The government's ability to succeed and provide good services depends on a healthy and growing economy. Sixty percent of our major manufacturing has disappeared from our state. There are powerful long-term forces the Legislature failed to deal with this year.

THE ENTERPRISE:

What is your outlook for the results from this November's elections in the state Legislature?

REP. CHANDLER:

The current makeup of Washington's Legislature is 50 Democrats in the House, with 48 Republicans; and the margin is 25 Democrats, 24 Republicans in the Senate.

I'm optimistic about this year's elections. Republicans have a very good chance in the House of picking up a majority, looking at it right now.

THE ENTERPRISE:

Is there ever going to be a new Hood River bridge built?

REP. CHANDLER:

That project has been overshadowed by transportation politics, but I hope we continue to work toward building a new bridge there. It's on the long-term project list, and we're trying to shorten that. It is possible we'll see a trend toward using tolls to pay off large projects such as this one.

THE ENTERPRISE:

Do you have any plans to run for higher office, such as State Senate or even U.S. Congress?

REP. CHANDLER:

Being in the state Legislature is really the center of American politics. Key issues have to pass through there. I'm really excited about being a member of the House.

I don't mind that we have to run for election every two years. That keeps me in touch with the people.

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