Herrera Beutler Addresses Price Increases, Police in ‘Telephone Town Hall’


U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler is well aware of the compounding costs her constituents face.

In a conversation ranging from veterans services in Lewis County to gun control, the effect of rising prices on just about everything was front and center among what the congresswoman addressed during a “telephone town hall” hosted on June 1.

Herrera Beutler said her recent focus has been on “the spike in gas prices and groceries and just about everything else.”

“The stories I’m hearing are people choosing between filling up a truck with gas or going to the dentist, or moms desperately driving from store to store trying to buy formula to feed their babies but only finding empty shelves, and mom and pop operations that sell certain products, but that product is literally not being made right now,” Herrera Beutler said.

The congresswoman said the inflation and supply chain stresses are unlike anything she has seen in her lifetime. She specifically acknowledged the impact fuel prices have on those dependent on driving to school or work.

“It is a horrible feeling to pull up to a pump and see that it is well over $5 a gallon,” Herrera Beutler said.

She said recent economic studies show inflation costs the average American household more than $5,000 this year, after an increase of $3,500 last year.

“I don’t know where people are supposed to make up thousands of dollars really to maintain the same things,” Herrera Beutler said.

Acknowledging there are numerous factors impacting the issue, “reckless government spending has contributed significantly to this problem and it has to be reined in,” she said.

To combat the spending, Herrera Beutler said she voted against “trillions of dollars of unnecessary spending in the past year.” Some of that spending was for things Herrera Beutler wasn’t necessarily against funding, but given the greater context, she said funding the items in the current state of the economy isn’t prudent. 

“Right now, people are holding on for dear life, economically. We don’t need to increase people’s taxes,” Herrera Beutler said.

She said during her tenure she has “never voted for a tax increase.”

Energy independence in the United States is important to combat the inflation of gas prices, she said, though it also factored into resource security on not having to rely on countries “where the leaders don’t like America and what we stand for.”

The congresswoman said she had the opportunity to speak to Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm recently as she told the department head about a Washington business who had to scale back because the cost of gas is the latest impact to its operations in a long list of price increases. Herrera Beutler said high-level federal officials “get stuck in their D.C. bubbles” and aren’t aware of what kind of effect the changes at the local levels have on businesses being able to function.

“If you were on the margin of barely being able to afford your house or your apartment, which is the truth for a lot of people in Southwest Washington, any slight bump can render you homeless,” Herrera Beutler said.

She said she has introduced bills that require local governments who are looking for federal money to make housing a priority.

With a threat of electricity brownouts in the next few months, Herrera Beutler said it is important to protect the state’s energy generation. Last summer, Washington came within 500 kilowatt-hours of going into brownouts, she said.

When asked about support of subsidies for fossil fuel companies, the congresswoman implied there isn’t preferential treatment to that industry by the federal government.

“They don’t get treated any differently than any other business in the tax code,” Herrera Beutler said.

The congresswoman generally pushed against the idea of subsidizing any energy industry, renewable or otherwise.

“I don’t care what energy you are offering, the taxpayer shouldn’t subsidize you. If you have a product that’s good enough to make it to market and to be purchased, that’s how free markets work,” Herrera Beutler said.

On renewables, she noted the state’s extensive hydropower generation on the Columbia and Snake rivers, which she said would “take upwards of 16 coal-fired plants to replace” as some concerned about the dams’ environmental effects outside of greenhouse gas generation have suggested doing.

Noting the development of emerging energy technologies with less of an environmental impact, she said she is “all for that, but they also have to be something that we can afford and doesn’t hamstring the economy.”

Herrera Beutler also addressed issues with law enforcement, especially evident given recent changes to policing by the Clark County Sheriff’s Office, which resulted from staffing issues. She pointed to the statistic that Washington has the fewest officers per capita of any state and Washington, D.C. as evidence of the state’s situation.

Herrera Beutler said she has supported bills that provide signing and retention bonuses as well as funding for departments to maintain staffing levels.

“I refuse to allow what has happened to Portland or in Seattle be the same as Southwest Washington,” Herrera Beutler said.

The congresswoman also noted she spent months last year meeting with local law enforcement across the Interstate 5 corridor last year to hear what they have experienced. There, she learned of issues with hiring and training new officers.

“I don’t think there’s anything more honorable you can do than … put your life on the line for your citizens,” Herrera Beutler said, “but Olympia and the cities around us have made some terrible strides in the ‘defund police’ movement.”

Herrera Beutler’s support of law enforcement was noted during the call, as Debra Howie, the wife of Wahkiakum County Sheriff Mark Howie, called in to give her thanks.

“Every time we turn on the TV, law enforcement is being thrown under the bus, and it’s been stomped on terribly,” Debra Howie said.

Herrera Beutler reflected on how an officer’s entire family takes part in their decision to serve the public.

“Having worked with or met with people who have lost their loved ones in the line of duty, protecting our communities, I am very cognizant of the price you pay, as well,” Herrera Beutler said.