Before budget cuts are made, economic development should be considered

by Rep. Kirk Pearson

All of us are aware that difficult budget decisions must be made in Olympia this year. Overspending at the state level along with the national economic slowdown has left Washington in a position where tax collections are stagnant. Like the last budget, the Legislature has about $30 billion to pay for services, education, public safety and economic drivers such as parks and recreation.

I believe budget writers should put first things first when spending your tax dollars and take into account expenses that may seem unimportant but, actually pay off for the state. One example is budget writers are proposing to close the trout fish hatchery in Arlington.

This hatchery releases 330,000 trout annually, or over 36,000 tons of trout, into our rivers and lakes. Outdoorsmen flock to rich fish-populated areas of the state during weekend fishing trips, or even for the day, and spend money in our local shops, restaurants and sporting goods stores. In addition, tourists pay for fishing licenses, hotel rooms, fuel, food and other items that contribute to our local economy.

While those writing the budget may see closing this hatchery as a good way to save money, the reality is sports fisherman, and families and visitors, who come to our area for the excellent trout fishing, create a true boost to tax collections.

Supporting outdoor recreation is especially important for rural areas that see an increase in tourism due to good fishing conditions. Much like our state parks bring campers, our rivers stocked with healthy trout lure fishermen.

This is also a low-cost form of family entertainment that people rely on now more than ever. When a long trip is not an option for families due to the economy, they congregate at local lakes and rivers to take part in traditional sports such as fishing.

Spending a little to make big gains in our local economy is good policy. I would like to see legislative leadership take a better look at the cost and benefits of the trout hatchery in Arlington and take into consideration the economic drivers this hatchery creates in our state.

We can trim spending without sacrificing these necessary elements that help keep local businesses thriving. I welcome your thoughts and suggestions on this issue. Please contact my office at (360) 786-7816 or e-mail me at pearson.kirk@leg.wa.gov.

Rep. Kirk Pearson, R- Monroe, is serving his fifth term in the Washington State Legislature for the 39th District.

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