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U.S. Budget Deficit Hits Home

by Rolf Boone
The Olympian, January 5, 2006

Nation's debt hurts local projects, U.S. Rep. Smith says

LACEY-- Exciting things are happening to the South Sound and Lacey economies, but if the trend of ever-increasing U.S. budget deficits is not reversed, it could dampen future efforts to invest in the region, U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, D-Tacoma, told members of the Lacey Thurston County Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday.

Smith spoke at Saint Martin University's Norman Worthington Conference Center, where he addressed an audience of 82 people for about 30 minutes.

The Port of Tacoma is on pace to double its cargo during the next 10 years, and what can't be handled in Tacoma could result in more business for the Port of Olympia, Smith said.

Smith, along with U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and U.S. Rep. Brian Baird, D-Vancouver, played roles in helping the Port of Olympia secure just shy of $2.7 million for a second phase of port railroad improvements.

"There is massive potential that Seattle does not have," said Smith about the ports of Tacoma and Olympia, adding that the Port of Seattle is running out of room.

But to ensure that transportation needs, entitlement programs, health care and veterans' health care programs continue to get funded, the size of the U.S. budget deficit needs to be addressed soon and not in a "nickel and dime" manner, Smith said.

"We need to make some big-picture fiscal decisions," he said. The U.S. budget deficit stands at $8 trillion and is expected to rise another $315 billion this year and then around $400 billion after that for "as long as the eye can see," Smith said.

He said if the budget deficit is not addressed during the next five to 10 years, funding for projects such as the $33 million Yelm bypass and the Yelm Senior Center could become things of the past.

Port of Olympia Commissioner Steve Pottle agreed with Smith that budget deficits are a concern.

"It's important to get it under control and to quit spending on 'bridges to nowhere,' " Pottle said.

But if large budget deficits are not addressed, Pottle said, it doesn't necessarily mean that federal funding will dry up. Communities that can raise money and have it matched with federal dollars should succeed in having their projects funded.

The Port of Olympia raised money for the first phase of its railroad improvements, which was then followed by a federal appropriation, he said.

"Even if he (Smith) is a Democrat, he's a common-sense kind of guy," said Priscilla Terry, a commercial real estate broker with Prime Locations Inc. of Lacey. "I wish they were all like he is."

Rolf Boone covers business for The Olympian.
U.S. Budget Deficit Hits Home
The Olympian, January 5, 2006

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