Washington’s lawmakers agree with Rep. Larry Springer that cash-strapped local governments need an alternative to raising taxes or seeing parks and facilities fall into disrepair.
The Senate today passed a Springer proposal dubbed the REET Flexibility Bill, which allows cities and counties to use up to $1 million of their existing Real Estate Excise Tax collections to pay for the maintenance and operation of parks and other facilities. State law currently requires those taxes to be used to finance new acquisitions and projects.
“My home town of Kirkland and many other communities have millions of dollars we can’t use because state mandates are tying the hands of local officials,” said Springer, who represents the 45th District. “Instead of authorizing new taxes, my bill helps communities by giving local officials more freedom to use resources they already have on hand.”
Kirkland City Councilmember Amy Walen told lawmakers at a Feb. 17 public hearing that Springer’s measure will help the city maintain its parks and public facilities at a time when no other alternatives are available.
“We need this REET flexibility because, like most cities, we have run out of options,” Walen said.
Springer is a former mayor of Kirkland.
Passing Springer’s measure into law is a key 2011 priority for organizations representing Washington’s cities and counties.
“Our communities don’t want to just build parks and facilities, they want to maintain them,” said Ashley Probart, Legislative and Policy Advocate for the Association of Washington Cities. “This bill is a big deal for our cities, and we appreciate the efforts of Larry Springer and our partnership with Washington Realtors for making this important bill happen.”
The Senate voted 28-20 for Springer’s House Bill 1953. The House of Representatives voted 79-18 for the bill earlier in the session. The measure now goes to Gov. Chris Gregoire for her approval.