Op-Ed: Ready to work for Central Washington priorities
As a third-generation Yakima Valley farmer, I am proud to call Central Washington my home; it’s where my wife, Carol, and I raised our children and where our family runs its business. I was humbled to be sworn in as your new Congressman last week. To be entrusted with the responsibility of representing the 4th District is a distinct honor. My day-to-day experience as a state legislator and at the helm of the state Agriculture Department has been to listen to the needs of taxpayers, streamline government and find solutions to the challenges we face. We have work to do in Congress, so now is the time to roll up our sleeves, and with a can-do attitude make progress on our region’s priorities.
Central Washington has a clear message for the other Washington as we head into 2015: we need less partisan back-and-forth, more common sense and conservative solutions. Congress must reduce the federal regulatory burden and reform the tax code in a way that encourages private job creation. We have a responsibility to limit the growth of the federal government and rein in out-of-control spending. By moving forward on a balanced budget amendment and replacing Obamacare with a free market-based health care system that works, Congress can start getting the federal budget back on track and reduce the mounting national debt.
I believe strongly in limited government, but I will work to make sure the federal government is responsible and effective in the areas where it plays an integral role in our regional economy. These issues include: making sure Hanford cleanup promises are kept, collaborating to meet current and future water storage requirements for farmers in the Yakima and Columbia Valley, ensuring federal land-use regulations respect the rights of landowners, and supporting accountable immigration reform in a way that strengthens border security while meeting local workforce needs.
The federal government has a moral and legal obligation to continue environmental cleanup efforts at the Hanford site. I grew up in the shadow of Hanford, and my recent visit to the storied Manhattan Project site underlined the fact that stable funding is crucial to maintaining the impressive progress made so far. We simply can’t afford the alternative. I also intend to push for transparency and accountability from the Department of Energy, building on my predecessor Rep. Doc Hastings’ effective oversight of DOE’s management. Just as taxpayers deserve cleanup efforts that continue apace, they also deserve openness related to the ongoing decontamination efforts at Hanford.
As a farmer, I understand firsthand the central importance of increasing water storage and harnessing the renewable energy provided by our rivers. For farmers and businesses in Central Washington, access to water provides the foundation for our economy. Safeguarding our dams and effectively managing our water resources can build our region’s economic future while providing proper stewardship of our natural environment. As water tables in the Odessa subarea aquifer recede at alarming rates, it is crucial that we continue to implement integrated water management plans that meet current needs and plan for future development. I will advocate for an active federal partnership with state and local stakeholders on the Columbia Basin and the Yakima River Basin Water Enhancement projects.
Another key challenge for farmers, businesses, and landowners in the 4th District is burdensome federal land-use regulations. I support reforming the Endangered Species Act and keeping the Environmental Protection Agency within bounds so that the law works for the benefit of, and not against, both protected species and taxpayers. My conviction stands that land use decisions should be local decisions, not one-size-fits-all edicts from Washington, D.C. that hamstring economic development.
Among the challenges facing the 114th Congress, we must work to secure the border and provide a long-term solution for our broken immigration system. I was deeply disappointed in President Obama’s unilateral executive action on immigration late last year for two reasons. First, he thwarted the Constitutional legislative process, creating uncertainty and instability for our legal system and for the millions of people affected by his actions. Second, he inflamed people on both sides of the debate and set back the cause of necessary and lasting immigration reform. I’ll go to Congress ready to work with anyone who wants to make a good faith effort to fix our dysfunctional system. We need to do it for our economy, our farms, our neighborhoods, and for aspiring Americans.
While the year ahead offers its set of challenges, it also presents an opportunity to take responsibility and find common ground to foster an environment that encourages private sector job creation, cuts red tape and gets the federal government out of the way of hard-working Central Washington families. Even as we tackle these challenges, it is a privilege to have the responsibility to work on behalf of the 4th District.