House Democrat introduces bill highlighting job training needs in rural counties

Washington Republicans have been identifying themselves as the party representing rural voters.

They make those arguments when talking about water rights as it relates to the Hirst Decision. They talk about it when they discuss expanding telemedicine. They talk about it when they criticize the carbon tax as regressive and likely to hit rural commuters. They talk about rural voters as beneficiaries of changes to property taxes suggested under the Majority Coalition Caucus’ budget proposal.

It makes sense. Rural districts tend to lean Republican. And the political polarization in rural versus urban areas is a national trend. So while Democrats tend to represent bluer districts, it makes sense for them to make appeals to rural voters, particularly if they’re a Democrat representing a not-so-urban district.

Rep. Mike Chapman, D-Port Angeles, introduced a bill targeting needs of rural voters Wednesday morning. House Bill 2177 proposes offering free tuition for one year for “high-demand fields in small counties. (population of 80,000 or below) with an unemployment rate greater than 8 percent or a median wage of under $18 an hour,” according to a release from Chapman’s office.

Mid-level jobs that Chapman’s bill targets would be along the lines of auto mechanics, law enforcement personnel,  early childhood educators, accounting professionals and more.

“A one-year degree or certificate is the best possible investment in our small towns and counties,” Rep. Chapman said in a statement. “Those mid-level jobs are a ticket to the middle class, the kind of job that lets you buy a house and has benefits like health care and retirement.”

In the release, Chapman’s office points to the gap in resources of trained employees.

(Provided by Rep. Mike Chapman’s office.)

Chapman argues the bill would help fill that gap and help the economy in rural areas.

This is about revitalizing timber country and farm country,” Chapman said in a statement. “Research tells us one year of education beyond high school is the tipping point for people to get family wage jobs. We also know local businesses need workers with advanced skills. This legislation brings those two things together.”

This map provided by Rep. Mike Chapman’s office, shows unemployment rates by county, and points to why Chapman wrote a job-training bill directed toward rural residents.

Erin Fenner: erin@washingtonstatewire.com, @erinfenner

The Morning Wire: Keeping you informed on Washington politics, policy, and political economy