Senator shares insight into first year in new chamber

Government: Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, brings in analyist to speak about Narrows bridge tolls

of the GatewayMarch 26, 2014 

Sen. Jan Angel spoke Thursday during the weekly Gig Harbor Chamber of Commerce public affairs forum to give her take on the legislative session.

She also brought a special guest.

Angel, R-Port Orchard, and Noah Crocker, the senior financial analyst for the state Transportation Commission, shared thoughts on the recent session and Tacoma Narrows Bridge tolls.

Angel asked Crocker to speak to business leaders because he’s one of her go-to people when it comes to understanding the financial structure of the bond payments that helped to build the eastbound span of the Narrows bridge.

Crocker said the debt service will be paid off and toll rates removed in 2030.

From 2011-13, the bridge saw a decline in traffic, Crocker said. But he dismissed the notion that the decline had anything to do with tolls, because they were steady during that time period.

Instead, Crocker said the traffic dip most likely was due to the declining economy and drivers changing their habits.

Crocker said the toll booths themselves serve an important function. Money collected there is cash in hand, as opposed to bill-later options such as pay by mail. Those collections, when they come, go to accounts receivable, he said.

Midway through the session, Angel became co-chair of the Senate Financial Institutions, Housing and Insurance Committee. She spoke Thursday about issues that surrounded a homelessness bill.

House Bill 2368 sought to make a $40 fee on home sales permanent to fund housing programs for the poor. Originally, the fee would have gradually stepped down the amount.

Angel did not send the bill through committee.

Later, a compromise was struck, and a bill that would extend the fee for four years was passed.

Angel said during the forum that the most difficult thing about the bill was the negativity she received for not bringing it to a vote. But, in the end, she said it’s a better bill.

A hot issue this year was education based on the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision that forces the Legislature to boost funding for K-12. Angel talked about making sure STEM classes are widely available to students, because she believes it will prepare them for high-wage technology jobs based in this area. She also stressed the importance of higher education funding.

“Today’s good jobs require additional training,” she said.

Angel also addressed the supplemental budget that passed with only one no vote.

A bill the City of Gig Harbor requested did not pass the House, but Angel said she will bring it back next session. The bill would have allowed cities to maintain immunity on public docks despite charging fees.

State Rep. Larry Seaquist, D-Gig Harbor, will speak about the session at 7:30 a.m. Thursday at at Cottesmore of Life Care. State Rep. Jesse Young, R-Gig Harbor, is scheduled to speak April 3.

Reporter Karen Miller can be reached at 253-358-4155 or by email at karen.miller@gateline.com. Follow her on Twitter, @gateway_karen.

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