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Rep. Smith talks congressional gridlock with council
U.S. Rep. Adam Smith offered his assistance to the Bellevue City Council on Monday, expressing more optimism about state and local support than his ability to advance congressional objectives.
"As far as D.C. is concerned, we are gridlocked for the most part on a large number of issues," he said. "We did manage to pass improvements to the Veterans Administration this week."
But that's just one success coming out of Congress the 9th District Democrat highlighted, adding the country is still "stumbling" toward nine more years of sequestration — across-the-board discretionary spending cuts for transportation, education, defense, housing and other programs.
Budget disagreements among the House, Senate and White House, including appropriations bills, are driving the country toward another government shutdown, Smith said. He added he's hopeful Washington Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will come up with a budget deal for the next two years of spending, as they did for 2014-15.
"Continuing resolutions is not a great way to try to fund a government," Smith said.
Washington's inability to meet waiver requirements set by the federal education secretary, which required all students in 2014 to meet adequate yearly progress standards, means soon schools and children across the state will be receiving a failing report card from the government.
"Every parent will receive a notice saying that their school is failing — no matter the school district, no matter the school," Smith said, save for one in Edmonds.
Smith said passing an updated Elementary and Secondary Education Act is the solution.
An 18-month federal transportation funding measure also recently expired, Smith said, adding the nation's aging infrastructure needs new revenue sources for repairs and replacement, but many federal lawmakers are pledging no new taxes or increases in taxes to their constituents.
"Now we're just funding almost month to month on transportation, and I think it's one of the biggest needs we have in the state and across the country, when you sort of look at where the United States is now compared to the other countries we're competing with, China most notably," Smith said. "… There's lots of ideas out there. We just haven't advanced them."
He said he wants to work with the City Council to support applications for Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grants for transportation improvements that will be necessary for Bellevue to integrate light rail into its infrastructure.
"I know the issues with Sound Transit never seem to go away," Smith said.
Addressing another controversial project in Bellevue, Smith said Puget Sound Energy's Energize Eastside requires a lot of discussion, especially about meeting energy demands as the city continues to grow. He said improvements are needed, but could not define what those would look like.