Kilmer doles out criticisms before Port Angeles business audience; mum on re-election bid
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U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, speaks to a capacity audience at Monday’s Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce meeting. —Photo by Paul Gottlieb/Peninsula Daily News

By Paul Gottlieb
Peninsula Daily News

PORT ANGELES — U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer criticized the Congress he is a member of and touted his freshman-term accomplishments Monday at a Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

Kilmer, a Port Angeles native whose 6th Congressional District includes Clallam and Jefferson counties, would not say in an interview if he has decided to run for re-election in November.

But the Gig Harbor Democrat echoed themes he used in 2012 when he defeated Republican Bill Driscoll of Tacoma to succeed longtime Congressman Norm Dicks, who retired.

“I think we need to get the country back on track,” Kilmer told 75 people in the upstairs banquet room at the Red Lion Hotel while spending the day in Clallam and Jefferson counties during Congress' spring recess.

Mixing humor with barbed observations, he tied congressional inaction to entrepreneurs' inability to be successful.

Citing the government shutdown, Congress' repeated failure until recently to pass a budget, and sequestration, which he called “a Latin word for stupid,” Kilmer said federal lawmakers of both parties had created an unpredictable environment for federal agencies, employers and the stock market.

“The failure of Congress to step up starts to have a ripple effect on private industry,” he said.

Kilmer also lambasted the Republican-controlled House for recently passing a budget that he said would cost 3 million jobs, increase borrowing rates for college loans and cut $52 billion out of the transportation budget in one year.

Saying he routinely champions bipartisanship, Kilmer said he favors a “comprehensive approach” that combines spending cuts and tax reform.

“There's no silver bullet,” he said.

“I think it looks more like silver buckshot.”

The Olympic Peninsula Collaborative that Kilmer formed in December intends to fight against unfair labor practices, push for greater regulatory certainty and pursue opportunities for innovative forest products, such as custom laminated timber, he said.

“All the stakeholders are at the table trying to talk through these things together,” Kilmer said.

He noted a court case related to stormwater on U.S. Forest Service roads “would have created a great deal of tumult in the timber industry” had the issue not been resolved in a farm bill Kilmer recently voted for and which passed Congress.

Kilmer said nothing about the controversial Wild Olympics Wilderness and Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 2014, which he is cosponsoring with U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, a Seattle Democrat.

The legislation would prohibit logging on 126,554 acres of the 633,000-acre Olympic National Forest.

Kilmer also pushed his “Kilmer at Your Company” appearances — “which I think is pretty clever,” he quipped of the name — at which he meets employers and employees at businesses to hear their concerns.

He had two such events during his visit to the North Olympic Peninsula: one in the morning at Jefferson Healthcare hospital in Port Townsend and the second in the afternoon at Nippon Paper Industries USA in Port Angeles.

Campaign finance reform also is a top priority, he said, alluding to the Supreme Court's 2010 Citizens United decision.

“I don't think money is speech and corporations are people,” Kilmer said, suggesting the Constitution may have to be amended to address the issue.

In response to questions from the audience, Kilmer told Mike Millar of Port Angeles that he supports increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25 an hour to $10.10 an hour.

“It makes sense in part because a person who spends 40 hours a week working and who has two kids shouldn't be living under the poverty level,” Kilmer said.

Clallam County Department of Community Development Director Sheila Roark Miller noted that federal tax dollars could not be used to teach Peninsula College students to go into business growing marijuana under the new, voter-approved marijuana legalization law and asked what Kilmer might do “to help them in this new industry.”

Kilmer said he was not sure of the workforce aspects of the law but had consulted with lawmakers in Washington state and Colorado, where a similar law was passed, to help convince the Justice Department not to crack down on authorities who are implementing the will of voters.

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5060, or at pgottlieb@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: April 21. 2014 7:52PM
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