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City discusses legislative priorities for the upcoming session

Council votes in support of AWC legislative agenda

 

December 4, 2019



With the Washington State Legislature preparing to begin in January, now is the time for Mukilteo to compile a list of priorities for the 2020 session.

The legislative agenda will direct the City of Mukilteo’s efforts in the state Legislature. City Council members discussed key issues of concern at their meeting Nov. 25. They voted unanimously to support the Association of Washington Cities (AWC) legislative agenda and reaffirm City priorities from 2019.

The Legislature will convene for a short 60-day session in mid-January. Since this is the second year of the biennium, many issues addressed will either be carried over from the 2019 session or needed corrections to previously passed legislation.

“When we actually end up heading down to Olympia, we might zero in on things that are more specific to Mukilteo,” Mayor Jennifer Gregerson said.

Councilmember Richard Emery said it would be nice to consider replacing a bridge in the legislative agenda, although he said it would be unlikely given the current chaos in the transportation budget. He also asked if there was a legislative approach that could be used in response to increased traffic around Paine Field.

“I do support reasserting the current projects that we have, but I am a strong advocate of Japanese Gulch,” Councilmember Bob Champion said. He also agreed with Emery’s concern about the increase in traffic near the airport.

Champion said he hopes to secure $4 million for Japanese Gulch daylighting. He said the City needs to take action on the plan for gulch property before others look to develop their properties in the vacant area.

“I think that is critical and I don’t think we should lose sight of it,” Champion said. “We need to reiterate, reiterate, reiterate. Let’s not lose this one.”

The 2020 AWC legislative priorities consist of seven overarching issues to be addressed in the upcoming session. The first goal aims to adopt a comprehensive set of transportation policies that provide robust new resources and local options.

According to the list of priorities, cities are responsible for a large share of the statewide transportation system and most funds come from local tax dollars. The AWC said the state must maintain and develop new transportation-specific revenue options for cities, in addition to increasing resources for city transportation needs.

The second priority requests that the state fully fund the Public Works Trust Fund. The PWTF provides significant funding to necessary infrastructure within communities, the list states. The AWC seeks full funding for the program and asks the state to protect the current stream of loan repayments.

Another primary concern includes a tax increment financing option for cities. The AWC said Washington’s cities need economic development tools to help maintain, expand, and modernize local infrastructure to spur local private sector investment.

Investing in a tax increment financing option will allow the Legislature to partner with cities and advance shared goals of building a robust and diverse economy for communities around the state. For maximum impact, cities need access to both property- and sales-tax programs.

The fourth priority aims to preserve City fiscal health with secure funding sources. Cities need revenue authority and flexibility to keep up with community growth and increasing service needs, the list of priorities states.

State investment in shared revenue distributions supports essential city programs and services, AWC said. Revenue options allow local elected officials to keep up with growth and increasing costs of basic services, like public safety and transportation.

The AWC also asked for support with statewide medication-assisted treatment services in city and regional jails. Cities are experiencing the consequences of an overwhelmed state behavioral health system. Local jails have an increasing need to address opioid use disorder and provide treatment, although criminal justice budgets are not prepared to take action, the AWC reports.

The sixth goal seeks to advance a watershed-based strategic plan to address local fish-blocking culverts along with state culverts. The Washington cities want to adopt and create a comprehensive response that funds local barrier corrections and provides actual habitat access for fish.

Cities recognize that the state is facing a $4 billion cost to fix fish-blocking culverts. Cities across Washington also own 1,300 barriers in the same streams and have no source of revenues to pay for needed corrections. A statewide approach is the only way to achieve meaningful salmon and orca recovery, according to the AWC.

The final priority focuses on continuing to pursue new resources and policies to increase affordable housing both at the state and local level. As communities continue to face a housing crisis, they need state support to incentivize housing options.

Cities need enhanced tools to attract and preserve multifamily development, such as moving the multifamily tax exemption program to smaller cities, extending the tax exemption for continued affordability guarantees, and expanding the ability to preserve existing affordable housing.

The session begins Jan. 13. A delegation from the City of Mukilteo will be attending the AWC City Action Days in Olympia Jan. 28-29.

The mayor and executive assistant will meet with the 21st Legislative District delegation next to address and discuss goals for the upcoming session.

 

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