Listen to audio from the interview at the end of the story.
WALLA WALLA -- Two local state representatives see a continuing battle in state budgeting in the coming year, with concerns about the next budget hole being even bigger.
State Reps. Maureen Walsh, R-College Place, and Terry Nealey, R-Dayton, were in Walla Walla this week as part of a media tour across the region. They each took time to comment on a variety of issues, from immigration to heath care, with the economy being at the root of many of the topics.
Following a bold move by Arizona to make it harsher to be an undocumented immigrant in the state, Walsh and Nealey both said similar immigration reform is not anticipated in Washington. Both felt immigration reform should be a federal, not state, matter.
Yet given the large migrant labor force in each of the representatives districts, each said they saw room for reform of some kind that was realistic about the country's reliance on such laborers.
Walsh said she did not agree with families being split up through deportations. Nealey pointed out that with a projected 12 million illegal immigrants in the country, something needs to be done that is not extreme. Walsh said much of the anti-immigrant sentiment may also be fueled by the slumping economy, and the belief that illegal immigrants take jobs away from legal residents or U.S. citizens.
On the state of the state's budget, both were concerned about the following year's budget, which Nealey said is projected to include a $5 billion deficit. Both said that despite some proposed cuts during this year's budget, not enough were implemented.
"We feel in the Republican party they weren't sufficient cuts," Nealey said.
On which investments are best for Washington, and which programs it should continue to fund, Walsh immediately voiced her support for early learning programs. Early learning focuses on reaching families with children ages birth to 5.
"I think that's where we're getting a good bang for our money," she said.
On that note, Nealey said Washington should continue to seek more public-private partnerships to keep such programs healthy, and to ease some of the burden on the state.
"We can't rely on government to do everything," he said.