By Sen. Nathan Schlicher, for the KP News

Hello, neighbors. I am your new state senator, and I’m grateful for this chance to introduce myself and share some thoughts on the issues facing our communities in these challenging times in Washington state.

For those of you I have not met, it is my privilege to replace our former state Sen. Derek Kilmer, who was elected to Congress in November. The Pierce County Council and the Kitsap County commissioners appointed me to fill the position, so our district will continue to be represented in Olympia this year.

I was born and raised in Bremerton, the son of a hospital administrator and a nurse. Today I continue the family tradition as an emergency department physician at St. Joseph’s Medical Center.

I am a beneficiary of the excellent public education system in our state. I graduated from Central Kitsap High School and earned my law and medical degrees from the University of Washington. I live in Gig Harbor with my wife, Jessica, and our two children, David and Juliette.

As a native son, I know our area, including the Key Peninsula, has unique interests and needs.

Transportation is a great example. As many of us know all too well, we share a significant share of the costs of two major parts of our state transportation network: the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and the ferry system. I know that escalating bridge tolls and ferry fares, as well as potential cuts to ferry service, can make the basics like getting to work difficult for many of us. I know that it is also suppressing economic activity and making growth in our district a challenge.

I am working to keep tolls and fares down, while maintaining our connection to neighboring communities. I believe we can mitigate the need for higher bridge tolls, for example, by holding down administrative costs for the tolling program and taking a close look at reserve funds the bridge program is required to hold.

While we do have unique needs in our district, we also have much in common with every Washington community. On top of that list must be a commitment to education. As someone who owes his career to a quality public education, I know how important our schools are, and I want my children to have the same opportunities that I did.

We’re facing another tight budget situation, and we will have to make tough choices. However, I believe we need to be clear in the Legislature: Education reform and efficiency do not mean “less education.” We can’t cut education at any level; we must improve it. We have a constitutional and a moral obligation to put our children’s education first, and I am committed to making sure we do just that.

As an emergency room physician, I also see firsthand the importance of our safety net. Ensuring everyone has basic health care not only changes lives, it can help us free resources for our priorities. A great example of this is the E.R. for “Emergencies” program, which I helped design as a physician. By working together, hospitals, physicians and the state helped people get the right kind of care, rather than coming to the emergency room with low-acuity health issues.

That reduced emergency room visits by state-insured Medicaid patients, increased the quality of care they received, and it is saving the taxpayers an estimated $30 million.

We can do more in this regard. Most of all, I want to hear from you. You can always call my office, or if you are in Olympia during the legislative session, stop by to talk. I’ve also been hosting weekly Friday meetings across the district, inviting constituents to join me for coffee and a discussion of what matters to them.

I am honored to represent you and look forward to meeting you soon.

Sen. Schlicher will be holding a town hall meeting with Rep. Larry Seaquist from 2-3 p.m. March 16, at the Key Peninsula Lutheran Church. Contact Sen. Schlicher at (360) 786-7650 or nathan.schlicher@leg.wa.gov.

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