Constituents clearly heard by 23rd District legislators

Majority speak in favor of sparing treatment programs.

When 23rd District Reps. Sherry Appleton (D-Poulsbo) and Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island) joined with 23rd District Sen. Phil Rockefeller for Saturday’s town hall meeting at Olympic High School, more than 50 constituents made their concerns plainly known, especially when it came to saving programs for the most vulnerable in society.

“My name is Rachel and I’m an addict,” one woman in the audience told the legislators. “I would not have gotten into college if it weren’t for the Kitsap Recovery Center (KRC).”

With proposed cuts to the General Assistance Unemployable (GAU) and Alcoholism and Drug Addiction Treatment and Support Act (ADATSA) funding, Rachel urged the trio to do all they can to preserve those programs.

“If it weren’t for those programs, I wouldn’t be here today,” she said. “I would probably still be out there using heroin.”

The GAU and ADATSA programs are at the top of every legislator’s list for which to provide ample funding, Appleton said, adding the funding will hopefully be enough to preserve treatment programs like KRC.

“We are going to do our best to make sure you can continue in your recovery,” said Appleton, who serves on the House Health and Human Services Appropriations Committee.

Programs like KRC are far more cost-effective in providing the treatment those struggling with addictions or have mental health issues need in order to become contributing members of society, she said.

“There are nonviolent offenders who can be placed in the community for $4,000 a year compared to $28,000 a year in prison,” Appleton said.

The state received $1.8 billion for social services and the Legislature had already cut $1.1 billion, so now legislators are going back to see what programs can be put back, she said.

“None of us want to have anything happen to those who can’t help themselves,” Appleton said.

Rolfes and Rockefeller agreed with Appleton’s assessment of the situation and likewise offered their support for those vital programs.

On transportation issues, Rolfes, who serves on the House Transportation Committee, told the audience that although the final transportation budget isn’t yet completed, “Overall, the picture is pretty good compared to a lot of states.”

Unlike several other states, Washington state has a transportation budget of $3.8 billion, even though it only received $400 million from the federal economic stimulus package, she said.

In terms of the future of the state’s ferries system, Rolfes noted there has been “a lot of chaos” with the overall system, but the system has a pretty positive outlook for the next two to six years.

Riders will see fare increases, “but not as great as we’re used to seeing,” she said.

With the Legislature coping with a massive budget deficit, legislators are cutting their own budgets, she said, noting “there is no silver bullet” to resolve the state’s current budget crisis.

One positive in the otherwise gloomy outlook is it appears for the moment that K-12 funding will remain largely intact for basic education, Rolfes said.

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