Councilmembers begin considering state legislative agenda for 2019

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An update from the city’s lobbyists on what to expect during the Washington State Legislature’s 2019 session, plus a draft 2019 legislative agenda, were presented to the Mountlake Terrace City Council during its July 16 business meeting.

Briahna Murray, vice president of Gordon Thomas Honeywell Governmental Affairs, urged councilmembers to thank local legislators for their work in what was a “very successful” 2018 legislative session, during which the city received $1.36 million in state funding.

That funding included a total of $1 million in the state capital budget — a $500,000 ALEA (aquatic lands enhancement account) grant for Ballinger Park and $500,000 for the city’s Main Street Project — plus $360,000 in the state transportation budget for Main Street.

Assisting Murray in the presentation was Shelly Helder, a governmental affairs consultant for Gordon Thomas Honeywell. She noted that 16 legislators are not running for re-election, including several in key leadership positions. Also in that group is State Rep. Ruth Kagi, who represents Mountlake Terrace in the 32nd legislative district. Candidates vying to fill Kagi’s seat will appear on the Aug. 7 primary election ballot, which will begin appearing in voters’ mailboxes this week.
Helder also pointed to three initiatives filed with the Washington Secretary of State’s office that are now undergoing verification of signatures for possible inclusion on the November ballot. One of those involves a carbon tax, and legislators are already expressing “a desire to reform what that carbon tax initiative is already set up to do,” Helder said.  Such a change to a citizens initiative would require a two-thirds ‘super majority” vote in both chambers of the state Legislature, “so there will have to be some bipartisan agreement over what a change to the carbon tax will look like,” she added.
Ideas for changing the state’s tax structure is likely to come up during the next legislative session, Helder said, noting that there were conversations during the 2018 session about income tax, head tax and property tax.
“There’s been a lot of fatigue about property tax and the state’s beginning to look at, are there other ways that we can meet our tax need without always going to property,” Helder said.
The issue of maintaining local control over the city’s taxing authority is also likely to be raised in the next session, Murray said.
Assisting cities and counties in funding for affordable housing, as well as additional incentives for developers to provide such housing, is another topic that is likely to be discussed by state lawmakers in 2019, both Helder and Murray said.

Transportation funding will also be hot topic, Murray said. In 2015, the state Legislature adopted the Connecting Washington package, a gas tax increase that funds a series of projects intended to be implemented over a 16-year period. “It’s evident to many that the funding that was generated by that gas tax is not sufficient to meet some of the mega projects that remain unfunded in our state, Murray said. These include the U.S Highway 2 trestle in Snohomish County, the I-5 bridge over the Columbia River and the I-90/Highway 18 interchange.

Legislators have been discussing the idea of a “mini package” of funding to address these transportation needs, she added.

The final topic the lobbyists addressed was legislation likely to come from Gov. Jay Inslee’s office regarding the deployment of small cell network facilities and rural broadband. While the governor has been supportive of local control over these issues, “We continue to be wary of industry proposals coming forward or amendments to the governor’s proposal that would preempt your local control and your ability to have influence over the aesthetics and location of small cell network facilities, as well as what you can charge if they’re attached to city-owned property,” Murray said.

Councilmembers received a draft legislative agenda for their review, with the idea of providing feedback and making adjustments before final approval in November. The top two items on the draft are working to acquire capital funding for Ballinger Park and the Main Street Revitalization Project.

You can review the draft here.

— By Teresa Wippel

 

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