Rep. Kilmer talks about local issues

U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, the Democrat representing the 6th Congressional District, sat down Aug. 20 for a roundtable discussion with reporters from the Kitsap Daily News centering on issues of local and regional importance.

Here is a condensed summary of Kilmer’s answers:

What’s the latest on the federal infrastructure bill?

Kilmer: I’m hoping we see that infrastructure bill make it across by the end of the month. But stay tuned. Washington D.C. is a funky place sometimes. I think the majority of Congress and the president want to see it pass. I think it’s more likely than not that Congress will pass an infrastructure bill.

The Navy has identified a need to upgrade the nation’s four shipyards to meet its needs in the future.

Kilmer: The Navy has substantial infrastructure needs, particularly at the shipyard. There’s a substantial need for a new drydock so that they can maintain the next generation of carrier. That becomes a real issue in the beginning and middle of the next decade. That is why the Navy has identified this shipyard infrastructure optimization program and plans to invest in the four public shipyards around the country, including Puget. It is certainly a priority for me to ensure that they’re able to execute on that program, in part, because those investments are needed for them to be able to conduct their mission.

If you care about jobs in Kitsap County, you’ve got to care about the work that happens at the shipyard and in making sure they can continue to do that vital work. That means we’ve got to make the investments in that infrastructure.

You were a sponsor of The Recompete (The Rebuilding Economies and Creating Opportunities for More People Everywhere to Excel) Act, which would establish a federal block grant program to assist perennially distressed communities with grants to meet their economic development needs. What was your motivation in sponsoring this bill?

Kilmer: The RECOMPETE Act is a big bipartisan bill that we’ve introduced that is focused on trying to help communities that are getting left behind economically. We’ve seen a huge concentration of job creation happening in a very small handful of communities around the country. Ninety percent of the job creation is happening in 10% of the zip codes in our country. You’ve got one in six Americans living in zip codes that have fallen behind not just where they were pre-pandemic, but behind where they were in the year 2000. Those communities are all over the country, but there’s a large concentration of them in the district I represent.

The proposal we put together is for some flexible long-term, 10-year support to communities that have faced persistent economic challenges. I represent a lot of areas, including areas of Kitsap County, that have consistently struggled. And so the rationale behind this bill is, OK, let’s give them some help.

You spoke some about the Invest in America Act. What other regional projects will it help fund?

Kilmer: One of the biggest wins for our region was the culvert fund — a billion dollars for the culverts. These are predominantly under roads and they’re blocking fish passage. The fact that we got funding in the Invest Act, the fact that every member of the Washington delegation supported that effort, and the fact that Sen. Maria Cantwell secured it on the Senate side, is a really good sign that we’re getting something across the finish line.

For me, this is about helping salmon recover, which is important for our economy, it’s important for tribal rights, but it’s also important for taxpayers because this is an obligation they lost from a lawsuit that asked the federal government to step up and be a partner in addressing this culvert problem. I think this is a big deal.