Over the past 20 years, every election has included discussion regarding our County’s economy. Today, discussions must be focused on the budgetary impacts from COVID-19, economic development, and how the county will adapt or adjust to the needs of the future. I will ensure our economic discussion is more than just talk.
The economic shutdown caused by the pandemic has impacted our local businesses hard. This caused a ripple effect that put many of our neighbors out of work which reduces tax receipts needed for governmental operations and services.
We are still waiting to see the significance of the impact on our county budget. Even if the budget is unscathed, our commissioners should be using this as an opportunity to analyze the budgetary needs of the future. This should start with the BOCC casting a vision and setting priorities of what is important to the county and its citizens then allocating resources based upon those priorities.
Our short term economic recovery must be the first priority, followed up with a serious discussion about future county services and needs. This must include how best to help our private sector rebound and flourish. Public health needs to be included in any short and long-term discussions. This should include dialog about mental health needs and where our county law enforcement efforts are directed.
As near-term recovery efforts are implemented, a comprehensive review of the county code is needed to pare back restrictions of county business development. This will be essential in helping impacted private businesses that might need to relocate into rural locations. These changes will also allow and encourage entrepreneurs to start businesses from their homes.
Our economic recovery and security start with:
- Taking a hard look at the budget to find efficiencies and requiring data be used to defend program funding decisions. This would include a careful assessment of county services needed into the future.
- Reduce burdensome regulations and cut “red tape” that prevent our businesses from recovering faster and getting people back to work
- Ensuring housing affordability throughout the county for all our residents – including those experiencing homelessness
- Seizing opportunities to make our county more “business-friendly” to attract new businesses to Kittitas County and the promotion of living wage or higher-wage jobs
- Assess county programs and assets to determine their potential return on investment and explore unrealized opportunities like using the recent county land purchased for flood abatement in the development of a wetland mitigation banking
- Explore funding options to provide adequate resources to address emergent needs like increased mental health intervention within our community