This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.
In the budget crunching going on in Olympia, just about everyone is being asked to give up something.
And although many South Sounders have their hearts set on illuminating the second Tacoma Narrows bridges, that looks to be one of the casualties as the Legislature scours the budget looking for ways to avoid cutting jobs and vital services.
The $1.5 million for the bridge-lighting project won’t make a huge dent in the state’s $2.8 billion deficit – or even the $150 million in cuts needed from the capital budget. But giving it up is an important symbolic gesture for the two Gig Harbor legislators who have pushed for the money, Sen. Derek Kilmer and Rep. Larry Seaquist. It’s an acknowledgement that compared to providing health care for children and the low-income and college financial aid, lighting the bridge is a lower priority.
In just a tight year, it might have made sense for the two to fight for the bridge money. After all, it would have a trickle-down stimulus effect for the South Sound by providing jobs for local electrical workers and revenue for local suppliers. But this is a disastrous year.
At a time when budgeters are scrutinizing every expenditure, it’s only right that something that’s more aesthetic than necessary should be sacrificed. It’s hard to justify a “nice-to-have” project when people are losing jobs and health care.
Just because the money won’t be there this year doesn’t mean the dream of lighting the bridge should go away. The challenge will be for NarrowsBridgeLights.org volunteers to get past their disappointment and stay focused on the project for when the economy improves. Those glimmers are already being seen in brighter jobs numbers.
There might even be a silver lining to a delay. It would give volunteers additional time to raise private money. And the solar technology that will be used to power the lights likely will be even further along.
The bridge will get lit. Just a little later.