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Chief political reporter David Postman explores state, regional and national politics.

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March 13, 2008 11:47 AM

GOP lawmakers, but not Rossi, praise gov's flood work

Posted by David Postman

Cooperation between Democratic Gov. Chris Gregoire and Republican lawmakers from flood-ravaged Lewis County may be robbing Dino Rossi of a prime campaign issue.

Rossi has been critical of Gregoire’s plans for flood relief and prevention projects. Much of what he’s said has come during visits to Centralia, Chehalis and the surrounding areas. But as Rossi told me yesterday, he doesn’t like what he believes is Gregoire’s top-down approach to flood relief.

Are we putting together a bureaucratic model you can tout to people and get a headline from, or are we going to actually listen to the people on the ground who live it everyday?

But Republican lawmakers who live it everyday are celebrating today the passage of several pieces of flood relief legislation, including a $50 million bond authorization to build flood control projects. They say cooperation with Gregoire has been excellent through the 60-day legislative session set to end tonight.

“Everybody has worked very hard on this,” said House Minority Leader Richard DeBolt, R-Chehalis. “The governor’s office was great to work with.”

Having the House Republican leader from the flood region gave the issue an even higher profile than it would have had. DeBolt made it a priority for him and his small caucus. And he said House Speaker Frank Chopp was supportive and cooperative as well, only asking questions to make sure that the bills were moving.

Rep. Gary Alexander, R-Olympia, the ranking Republican on the Appropriations Committee, is DeBolt’s seatmate in a district that stretches from the Capitol city down to the flood zone. He put out a press release this week touting passage of the $50 million bond bill.

“No one in the Legislature or the governor’s office has hesitated over our request for flood mitigation funding,” said Alexander.

Rossi’s specific concerns are about how the $50 million will be spent. He’s been saying that Gregoire was insisting that money would be required to be used as the state’s share of a state/federal levee project designed several years ago by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Some locals don’t like the Corps’ plan because it focuses on the freeway corridor through Lewis County and is not a basin-wide flood control project.

In a video produced by the Centralia Chronicle, Rossi said:

I mean, there’s all sorts of other options here. It’s not always a big expensive bureaucratic solution. … Christine Gregoire’s knee-jerk reaction is always a big-government bureaucratic solution. It doesn’t always have to be that way and I think that’s why you walk through the process, you go through the paces and figure out exactly what needs to be done. You know, people don’t need crab cakes. What they need is actually a real solution that’s a long-term solution. It doesn’t, you know, just because they may have wasted, you know, millions of dollars on a plan that’s flawed, doesn’t mean that you should do the plan that’s flawed.

The crab cake reference is about Gregoire’s decision to serve flood victims crab cakes she had won in a football bet with the governor of Maryland.

But DeBolt and Alexander say the governor never insisted the Corps plan be funded. They say the administration has been working with them since the flood and that the bill leaves enough flexibility for locals to have their say.

Up to $2.5 million of the $50 million in bonds would go to local Lewis County groups “to develop or participate in the development of flood hazard mitigation measures throughout the basin.”

The rest of the money is for the state share of the “United States Army Corps of Engineers flood hazard mitigation projects for the Chehalis river basin area,” according to the bill. But that would happen only “if such projects are mutually agreed to” among the federal, state and local governments.

Rossi read the bill and said it appears better than an earlier proposal he saw this session and he praised Alexander, the prime sponsor, for his work. But he remains a skeptic and worries that locals could be shut out of any substantive role in deciding how the money will be spent.

He said there is “some local flavor” in the bill. “But,” he said, “it looks like the rest of the money really is for the Corps plan.”

Rossi is also more skeptical of the federal government’s role than DeBolt and Alexander are. DeBolt and Alexander are confident Washington’s congressional delegation will come up with the $75 million federal share. DeBolt said he’s been assured of that.

But if the Army Corps doesn’t ask for the money, it will have to come as an earmark. And, Rossi said, “We know the battle they’re having back there over earmarks.”

I asked DeBolt about Rossi’s criticism of Gregoire and plans for flood control. He said he hadn’t been paying attention to the campaign and was unconcerned that his praise for the Legislature and Gregoire is running counter to Rossi’s campaign rhetoric.

When you’re here, you focus here. Gary’s and my job was to make sure it stayed top-of-mind for everybody, because people move on to the next biggest emergency.

Other pieces of flood relief expected to be signed by the governor include:

  • $10 million in housing assistance for lower- and middle-income property owners with flood-damaged property.
  • A bill that says if a property owner got a verbal OK from a building official to tear down a flood-damaged home, a written permit is not now needed.
  • About $150,000 in property tax relief for flood-damaged farms.
  • An early-warning alarm system that would alert residences via automated telephone calls of pending floods.

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Posted by Particle Man

1:20 PM, Mar 13, 2008

Just then Dino said "throw me a bone here, anything to work with....cuz I've got nothing...nothing to offer"

Well aint that a shame.

Posted by Hinton

3:42 PM, Mar 13, 2008

Well, while PM shows how typically delusional he is (Good God... Dino's got 4 years of Chrissy's idiocy to hang around her neck.) the fact is Dino lost the election when he came out in favor of subsidizing professional sports (The Sonics deal) and violated the number one campaign rule:

You can't win by out-democrating the democrats. Because when push comes to shove, they'll usually pick the genuine article over the faux variety.

On this one issue, I have to defer to the reps from Lewis County. But I'm also invoking the broken clock rule for Queen Chrissy. Let's remember.... her party screwed it up in the first place... and on her watch.

So, the issue is still there, depending on how he wants to use it... not that it's going to matter.

Posted by thekaj

3:52 PM, Mar 13, 2008

Poor Rossi. Opinion polls are showing that the former neck and neck race is turning into a blow out in Gregoire's favor. His chance at having an attractive presidential candidate up-ticket from him have died thanks to the Boeing tanker deal. And every time he tries to come up with a new wedge issue, the R's in the legislature won't back him up.

Yeah, this whole rematch thing isn't exactly looking rosy for Rossi right now.

Posted by BLegg

10:45 PM, Mar 13, 2008

All we get from Rossi is criticism. He rarely proposes an alternative. When he does it a non-specific superficial political statement. This guy is an empty suit for the BIAW.

Posted by Particle Man

11:35 AM, Mar 14, 2008

Hinton you misinformed tool the Gov had no hand in what did and did not take place over the last 25 years in the area along I-5 which flooded. Lewis county officials, Chehalis and Centrailia city councilors and the legislators of the involved area are ALL republicans. They have been encouraged by the local chambers to allow large developments in the floodplain and have devised NO plan to deal with flooding. This despite the fact that Army Corp money was available. If more money was needed for the corp project then you might want to take a hard real look of GW and his priorities.
Once again the state is the safety net when local GOP leaders fail to act except to make the situation worse. Once again our governor stepped up and put together a deal and funding that would bail out the local residents from the mess their local officials and business "community" created.

Posted by Whirlpool

7:31 PM, Mar 14, 2008

PM, again you have no clue as to what is going on Down Here.......I could care less about I-5 and the levees. This flood took out bridges that should have stood, and now we are going to go 25 miles downstream and build more levees that will protect I-5 AGAIN.....NOT.

If the folks want a plan, we need more than I-5 protection.....and more that 80 million....Hell, didn't we collect enough from that "sky is falling AWV" 9.5cent gas tax from 5 years ago to help out down here......

The U-tube ad is a fraud, and used falsified footage from the local paper here.......

Posted by Rossi Fan

2:55 PM, Mar 15, 2008

Yes, it is easy to spend, it is another to get something right that has continually been a solvable state problem.

Posted by redflag

5:55 PM, Mar 19, 2008

It seems clear that on this and many other matters, Rossi is choosing the path of partisan self interested posturing as opposed to being part of a solution.

That's one way to run for Governor. It sometimes appeals to the base during Lincoln Day dinner time.

But some people think it is sleazy. That's why some candidates don't do it, and leave that sort of stuff to surrogates.

It'll be fun to watch if Rossi keeps it up.

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