State lawmakers respond to increased challenges faced by local governments
Nearing the deadline to pass House bills, lawmakers passed a package of reforms to give local governments more options and flexibility.
“We’re in extraordinary times financially, and every level of government, the state, counties and cities all face unprecedented budget deficits,” Rep. Larry Springer (D-Kirkland) said. “These bills give cities and counties greater flexibility to address the challenges theyface without raising additional taxes. We are simply removing the restrictions placed on the revenue cities and counties already have.”
House Bill 3179, sponsored by Rep. Springer, expands opportunities for cities and counties to use existing revenue sources with more flexibility such as gambling taxes and criminal justice taxes. It passed the House, 51 to 47.
House Bill 2912, sponsored by Rep. Dave Quall (D-Mt. Vernon), dedicates the revenue from stadium-related tax sources in King County to specific accounts once the debt is paid. These accounts will fund housing, art and heritage programs, and community redevelopment. The House passed it, 53 to 45.
“So many services and programs are struggling right now,” Rep. Quall said. “This funding will mean the difference between shutting things down and laying people off. Instead, we can keep the doors open with this bill and keep helping people during these tough times.”
House Bill 2539, sponsored by Rep. Dave Upthegrove (D-Des Moines), gives local governments another way to encourage waste reduction through recycling programs. It gives more flexibility by increasing the amount of revenue that waste haulers can retain from recycling, so that local governments can choose to voluntarily increase the amount. It also allows the Utilities and Transportation Commission to integrate a low-income assistance program for garbage service, similar to ones already in place for phone and electric service, in UTC-regulated counties. HB 2539 passed the House, 96 to 1.
“Recycling diverts waste from the landfill and helps reduce a community’s carbon footprint, “Rep. Upthegrove said. “Without imposing any mandates, this bill encourages more recycling and gives local governments additional options to increase participation.”
House Bill 2990, sponsored by Rep. Eric Pettigrew (D-Seattle), provides a new financing approach for cities that have a water-sewer district operating within its boundaries. Starting with a pilot program, the City of Renton is given a new option to collect much-needed revenue from water and sewer services, which are currently exempt from a utility tax. This helps resolve long-standing conflicts with recent annexations. This bill passed, 62 to 36, and is now being considered in the Senate.
“This bill cuts a tangled knot of bureaucracy,” said Rep. Pettigrew. “It closes a legal loophole that made no sense and hurt the ability to give people services in certain neighborhoods.”
House Bill 3067, sponsored by Rep. Brendan Williams (D-Olympia), allows local governments in King and Snohomish County to give homebuilders more cash-flow flexibility by delaying payment of impact fees until the home is occupied, if the municipality chooses this arrangement. It passed the House, 60 to 37.
“Construction workers got hit the hardest by this recession,” Rep. Williams said. “There are forty-thousand folks in hard hats looking for work, and anything we can do to get them out of the unemployment line and back to work building houses is good for the families of those workers and good for our economy.”
Local news covering the businesses, government and community of Kirkland, WA.