Amid news that nearly 1,900 state employees have been fired or left their jobs in opposition to Gov. Jay Inslee’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, state Sen. Curtis King says he is concerned that the state’s transportation system and public safety will suffer in ways that will impact people in his district and throughout Washington.
“We’re already seeing the effects of the governor’s overreaching vaccine mandate on the state ferry system, as the reduction in ferry workers has caused many runs to be canceled and now appear to have just been slashed,” said King, R-Yakima. “Commuters and others who rely on the ferries are being punished because of Jay Inslee’s heavy-handed approach to the pandemic. For example, the San Juan morning runs have been cut from five to two, the times being 4:15 a.m. and 10:35 a.m.”
King said the mandate-related firing of 127 Washington State Patrol employees, including 67 troopers, six sergeants and one captain, is terrible news for those who use the state’s highways.
“Our state troopers do an outstanding job of maintaining safety on our highways and helping motorists and truck drivers when they have an accident or have problems with their vehicles. They save lives,” said King, ranking Republican on the Senate Transportation Committee.
“I saw the video of the trooper based in Yakima who signed off knowing he was about to be fired. The loss of all of these officers, as well as the dispatchers who were fired, will be felt by those motorists who need help on our highways. If and when a motorist is stuck on the side of a freeway or involved in an accident and there is no trooper around to help them, the blame should be placed on the governor.”
King, whose 14th Legislative District includes the Columbia River Gorge and Satus Pass north of Goldendale, has heard that the vast majority of the employees at the Washington State Department of Transportation’s Goldendale maintenance facility have lost their jobs due to the vaccine mandate.
“If there aren’t enough WSDOT maintenance workers to keep Satus Pass and other mountain passes and vulnerable sections of highways open and clear of ice and snow during winter, it will make driving through the mountains extremely dangerous. This could have a very negative impact on drivers and freight hauling throughout Washington this winter, and it could hurt our economy at a time where there are already major supply-chain concerns. Not to mention the safety element and the potential loss of lives,” said King.
Monday was the deadline for most state employees, all school employees and many health-care workers to be fully vaccinated under Inslee’s mandate. King is fully vaccinated and he encourages those who can to be fully vaccinated, but he does not agree with Inslee’s vaccine mandate.
“The governor’s vaccine mandate has already punished the workers who lost their jobs, and it will soon hurt the many of us who rely on the services that were provided by these workers. Governor Inslee is to blame here. He has gone too far with his mandate policy that is leaving many without a job while weakening public safety and transportation across our state. It could have and should have been handled so much differently. He should have given people options. It didn’t have to be this way.”