Top Priority Issues 2020 -- Impacting Fife Directly
Fife appreciates the leadership and actions of its 25th District delegation – and the Legislature overall – to make key investments in critical projects such as the SR 167/SR 509 “Gateway” project and Port of Tacoma Road (Phase I) improvements in the 2015 “Connecting Washington” package. These investments are mission-critical for a city of 10,000 that has finite resources, yet faces the big-city challenges that come with adjoining a world-class port, being bisected by a freeway (Interstate 5) that links the United States to Canada and Mexico, and having a state route (SR 99) that lies in close proximity to I-5. Heading into the 2020 Session of the Legislature, Fife has identified three transportation priorities to work on with area lawmakers:
- Port of Tacoma Road Interchange Improvements (Phase II): As lawmakers continue discussions on a possible new-revenue transportation investment package, Fife urges the Legislature to ensure any package includes up to $30 million for Phase II Port of Tacoma Road Interchange improvements. The cost figure has increased slightly because Fife worked with the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) on shifting previously-booked Phase II funds into covering Phase I. Phase I ground-breaking occurred in Summer 2018 and features a new road to segregate vehicle and freight traffic and reduce the significant queues that occur between the Port access road and I-5. Phase II is perhaps even more critical as it will involve interchange ramps to significantly benefit not only freight traffic but overall traffic flow for I-5 and the State of Washington. The City requests the Legislature’s assistance in including up to $30 million in POT Road Phase II funding in any transportation investment package that goes forward.
- Local Funding Options and Protecting Area Investments: A just-completed Joint Transportation Committee (JTC) study of city transportation funding needs demonstrates a $1 billion gap between needed maintenance and preservation of existing city roads and current funding resources to address that M&O. As a result, Fife will strongly support anticipated 2020 legislation to provide cities with more Transportation Benefit District funding options, such as a ‘councilmanic’ option of up to 2 percent utility tax. Enhanced TBD options are even more critical given voter approval of Initiative 976, which repeals the Vehicle License Fee funding tool utilized by Fife and other cities using TBDs. As lawmakers contemplate about $458 million in 2020 Supplemental Transportation Budget cuts to address I-976 impacts, Fife urges legislators not to permanently or defer Port of Tacoma Road Phase II or the SR 167 components of the SR 167/SR 509 “Gateway” project. These projects are absolutely vital to freight mobility and the state’s economy and stopping and starting them would add significant overall costs and delays.
- Valley Avenue & 58th Improvements: Fife is working with the Fife School District on improvements to Valley & 58th that are critical toward access into and out of a new elementary school, as well as the existing middle school and Fife High School. The project is also critical in preventing queuing and backups that would adversely affect I-5 operations. Fife urges 25th District lawmakers to assist the City with $400,000 in the 2020 Supplemental Transportation Budget to help ensure construction funding is in place for Valley & 58th.
Retool “Streamlined Sales Tax (SST) Mitigation” for Warehousing-Based Communities to Utilize for Economic Redevelopment Efforts: Fife appreciates actions by the 2019 Legislature to continue SST Mitigation funding in the 2019-21 Operating Budget and to book SST Mitigation as a planned 2021-23 expenditure. The SST Mitigation represents over $500,000 a year for Fife’s budget. However, the short-term nature of this expenditure still leaves uncertainty for communities that have built and maintained warehousing distribution hubs and have borne the disproportionately high costs of servicing and building infrastructure for these areas. At the same time, Fife recognizes the Legislature is reluctant to continue funding mitigation payments forever. For 2020, Fife will strongly support a City of Kent-led initiative to retool SST “mitigation” for the next 10 years and rather retool it as seed money called a “Sales Tax Diversification Award.” Under this new program, jurisdictions receiving more than $150,000 a year in prior SST mitigation funds would qualify for a 20-year state sales tax credit if they can show a plan to redeploy these funds toward redevelopment projects that generate new sales tax and property tax revenue for the community and for the State of Washington. Fife believes its redevelopment vision for the area between the Sound Transit light-rail station and the Port of Tacoma is an ideal zone for this “Diversification Award.”
Economic Development Tools
Tax-Increment Financing/Local Revitalization Financing (TIF/LRF): In 2020, Fife will support legislative initiatives led by AWC, individual cities, and others to provide economic development and economic recruitment tools to local communities. In both 2018 and 2019, the Legislature considered – but did not enact – bills to re-establish the “Local Revitalization Financing” (LRF) tool previously extended to cities. The tool involves the use of state sales tax credit dollars, matched by local funds, to make lasting infrastructure improvements that fuel economic development. A more robust tool, “Tax Increment Financing” (TIF), would involve the use of property tax increments to front-fund economic development retention and recruitment, and ultimately would require a constitutional amendment. These tools are designed to enable Washington to capture developments – and the resulting revenue that goes with them -- that otherwise would not occur at all, or certainly would not occur as soon or as expansively without the financing mechanism. Fife will strongly support legislation to establish these tools in statute, particularly as a way to incentivize development of 12 acres nestled between the Sound Transit Phase 3 (“ST3”) light-rail line and the Port of Tacoma.
Budget and Fiscal Matters
- Align with local partners to support efforts to ensure that “state-shared revenues” and other key state-program funding for cities and counties are preserved.
- Support efforts to ensure the Legislature adheres to previous agreements to raise marijuana revenue distributions for cities and counties from $30 million to $40 million a biennium. The 2019-21 Operating Budget included $30 million rather than the previously-negotiated $40 million level.
- Oppose any new unfunded or “under-funded” mandates and protect local revenue authority.
- Support legislative initiatives that may emerge to replace the 1 percent property tax cap on local governments with a system that is based on inflation and population growth.
Criminal Justice/Public Safety/Fire/Courts
- Support legislation, if it emerges, to reduce statutory wait times – from the current six months to two months -- for enrolling newly-hired law enforcement officers into Basic Law Enforcement Academy (BLEA) training slots.
- Oppose legislation that would undermine or weaken drug and property seizure and forfeiture laws which help local law enforcement agencies combat illegal drug-trafficking and narcotics operations.
- Support funding to add needed funds for Case-Management System upgrades for Municipal and District Courts.
Economic Development/Infrastructure/Housing/Affordable Housing
- Support continued efforts to rebuild the Public Works Assistance Account (“Public Works Trust Fund”) and recapture funding streams previously diverted into the Education Legacy Account.
- Support legislation to extend additional tools and incentives to local jurisdictions to address vital affordable housing, homelessness prevention, and mental health needs.
- Oppose legislation that, in the name of affording a ‘bill of rights’ to the homeless, could result in routine law enforcement contacts to help those experiencing homelessness being categorized in state law as ‘harassment.’ Fife joins cities, counties, law enforcement, and prosecutors in asking lawmakers to let current laws and court decisions govern actions to help provide treatment and services to those experiencing homelessness.
Land-Use/Growth Management Act (GMA)
- Support initiatives to revise state laws to program updates to GMA, Shoreline, and Critical Area plans on an every-10-years schedule so that they synch up with the 10-year census population updates.
- Oppose legislation that would mandate specific development standards and regulations for Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). Such decisions are best left to elected officials at the local level.
Local Government in General/Miscellaneous
- Support initiatives that can help reduce costs for cities and counties or make service delivery more efficient.
- Support legislation to streamline and improve the administration of the “No Dig Law.”
- Track legislation regarding Washington State emergency management statutes, working to ensure that proposed bills do no impose any new mandates on locally-run programs.
Parks and Recreation
- Support legislation being put forth by the Washington Recreation and Park Association (WRPA) to give parks and recreation agencies additional local funding options, particularly for ongoing operating needs, key capital investments, and maintenance backlogs.
Personnel, Pension, and other Human Resource Issues
- Oppose legislation that adds new costs and requirements to employee benefit programs without accompanying funds.
- Oppose bills or budget initiatives that increase employer/employee pension rates without corresponding funds to cover the costs of those rate hikes.
- Support initiatives to augment funding opportunities for culvert repairs and removals – with an emphasis on ensuring both state-owned culverts and locally-maintained culverts are addressed through a watershed-based approach.