The state legislature could pass a bill increasing state contributions to a local government financing program intended to improve infrastructure needed for economic development. HB 2804, sponsored by Local Government Committee Vice Chair Davina Duerr (D-1), cleared the House on March 4 with a 94-3 vote and was scheduled for a March 9 executive session in the Senate Ways and Means Committee, but no action was taken.
The legislature in 2009 created the Local Revitalization Financing (LRF) program, which permits cities and counties to pay for improvement projects within certain areas with the new tax revenue generated inside it. Improvements can range from roads and rail infrastructure to stormwater management systems and parking facilities. The state Department of Commerce determines which projects receive a portion of the $7.2 million per fiscal year in state contributions. Each project receives between $200,000-$500,000.
According to a 2019 program report, there are 18 revitalization areas within 17 local jurisdictions. They include:
- Lacey Gateway Town Center;
- Southridge Revitalization Area in Kennewick;
- South Lake Washington in Renton; and
- Columbia Waterfront Revitalization Area in Vancouver.
City of Lakewood City Manager John Caulfield told the House Local Government Committee at a Feb. 5 public hearing that the program “is a very powerful tool for…spurring economic development.” Within the city is a property located off Interstate 5 and near transit that would be ideal for mixed-use redevelopment. However, it would require relocating a Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) maintenance facility, and “they don’t have the financial resources to be able to do what needs to be done,” Caulfield said.
HB 2804 would increase the total state contribution per year to $15 million and the maximum amount per project to $1 million. The bill also revises the criteria used by Commerce for projects affecting existing affordable housing or if tribal interests or rights are involved.
Duerr told colleagues on the House floor before the March 4 vote that the new funding will enable cities and towns to make public improvements that are necessary to attract new development.
Rep. Vicki Kraft (R-17) said the increased state contributions “literally will help our local communities’ economies be able to get some investment up front. New economic development revenues will naturally occur…and then those communities and those families get new jobs.”
HB 2804 has not been scheduled for another executive session. The session is scheduled to end March 12.