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Woods counts herself among GOP moderate

Rep. Beverly Woods believes Kitsap County benefits by having her voice inside the closed-door Republican Party caucus.

Without it, she says, issues vital to the county – especially ferry funding – could be lost within a party that draws most of its support from Eastern Washington and the Seattle suburbs.

“I was the one pushing to include funding for passenger-only ferries in the transportation measure,” Woods said. “I keep trying to convince my colleagues from Eastern Washington and from the Eastside that we need funding for our ferry system.”

The Poulsbo Republican is seeking her second full term in the state House of Representatives from the 23rd legislative district, which includes Bainbridge Island and north Kitsap County.

She was appointed to the legislature in 1999 to fill the unexpired term of Rep. Karen Schmidt when the Bainbridge Island resident resigned to become head of the state Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board.

In 2000, she held the seat against Democratic challenger David Harrison of Bainbridge Island.

Last year, Woods became part of the House Republican leadership when she was named party whip, a job whose principal responsibility involves rounding up votes on issues of importance. But Woods places herself in the moderate wing of the party.

“On transportation, for example, there’s a faction among the Democrats that wants every penny to go to mass transit, and there’s a faction among Republicans that will say ‘no’ to any new taxes,” she said. “It’s the moderate wing of both parties – what I call the ‘common-sense people’ – that have to work together to get things done.”

Woods described the primary functions of the state as education, the infrastructure, public safety and “taking care of people who can’t help themselves,” especially the developmentally disabled.

The major crisis confronting the Legislature will be how to fulfill those functions in the face of a the budget shortfall of some $2 billion for the next biennium, Woods says.

Her program for resolving that begins with an immediate hiring freeze in January. Generally, she favors a freeze that would not permit replacing workers who retire or resign, although she said some replacements will be needed in critical areas such as education and corrections.

She believes the only long-range solution to the budget crunch is “to rebuild the economy and grow jobs,” which she says will require making the state more attractive to business.

“When Boeing president Alan Mulally met with a number of legislators last year, he made it clear that Boeing has an exit strategy, not just for the headquarters but for the company as a whole,” she said. “Their concerns are not just transportation, but the tax structure and the cost of labor.”

To address the labor-cost issue, Woods said the state needs to reform its workers compensation and unemployment compensation schemes, both of which she says are rife with fraud and abuse. She also wants to do away with the ergonomics standards the state is considering.

“WalMart and Safeway said they couldn’t locate distribution centers in the state with those rules in place, so Gov. Locke exempted them,” she said. “Why exempt them and not anyone else?”

On transportation, she hopes the voters will approve Referendum 51, the $7.7 billion package of transportation-improvement measures.

“Kitsap County is one of the areas with the most to gain,” she said, citing the increased ferry-system funding that measure will provide and the inception of Kingston-Seattle foot-ferry service.

If the measure fails, she said, the Legislature will have to impose at least some of the funding proposals on its own.

“Some sort of gas-tax increase is a given,” she said.

If the additional road construction proposed in R-51 does not come to pass, the Legislature will have to come up with congestion-relieving alternatives, she said, such as congestion-pricing tolls, where people pay more to drive at peak times.

“People will be given choices, letting them decide whether they want to drive at 8:30 a.m., which might cost them something, or wait until 10 a.m. and go for free,” she said.

Woods said there are indications the Republicans could regain the House majority, which currently tilts 50-48 Democratic.

Were that to happen, she does not know who would replace the retired Clyde Ballard as GOP majority leader.

“I’ve heard a lot of names mentioned,” she said. “I do hope, though, that it is someone from the moderate wing.”

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