As members of the Washington State Legislature prepare to open their 2014 session next week, the Mountlake Terrace City Council met with three local legislators Wednesday to bend their ear one last time and push for state funding to come their way for proposed infrastructure improvements to the city’s Town Center District.
Six of the seven city council members, in addition to the city’s Community and Economic Development Director Shane Hope and city legislative lobbyist Briahna Taylor, met with Legislative District 1 Representatives Derek Stanford and Luis Moscoso, and District 32 Representative Ruth Kagi, asking that the lawmakers keep in mind Mountlake Terrace’s request for $3.3 million in state funds.
The money would complete the city’s acquisition of $12 million to fund street, utility and pedestrian upgrades to 56th Avenue West and 236th Street SW, improvements that city officials say are needed to prepare for further development in the Town Center District.
Taylor noted that a transportation budget bill was passed last year in the state House and included $3.3 million for Mountlake Terrace, but the bill stalled in the Senate and new negotiations between the two legislative bodies show signs that those funds may be taken out of a final bill.
“The negotiation approach has put this project in jeopardy,” she said.
Rep. Moscoso, who serves as Vice Chair on the House Transportation Committee, said he can only sit and wait on getting Mountlake Terrace to be included on any final state transportation funding legislation. “We are just waiting for the Senate at this point,” he said. Rep. Kagi agreed; “When they pass something, that will be the start of negotiating,” she discerned.
Rep. Stanford serves as Vice Chair of the House Capital Budget Committee, and city officials have some hope that money could come from a state supplemental capital budget. “We will certainly try to get everything we can that is ranked high on the priority list,” he said.
Taylor stressed to the legislators that money for improvements to the Mountlake Terrace Town Center District should be seen as a priority. “We think this project has the merits,” she stated.
Kagi noted that the city’s best hope for the funds will be through the transportation supplemental budget bill, considering it already has House approval. “It’s a short session, and it will be tough to get anything major, new through,” she concluded.
City officials and the three legislators also discussed issues concerning revenues from liquor sales in the state and the changing rules governing marijuana use.
With the production, processing and retail sale of marijuana in Washington expected to begin later this year, Rep. Moscoso expressed concerns that the state isn’t prepared to help with education or health issues resulting from the sudden availability of pot. He also warned against rosy projections that the state will cash in big on the new industry.
“Everyone thinks we will be making billions on selling marijuana,” he said. “I don’t think it’s going to be such a gold mine.”
“One of the big issues of this session will be medical marijuana,” said Rep. Kagi. “It’s an unregulated issue, and if it remains unregulated the whole thing will collapse.
It’s going to be very controversial.”
The 63rd Legislative session begins on Monday, Jan. 13 and is scheduled to last 60 days.