The following are the Pasco City Council's legislative priorities for the 2016 session of the Washington State Legislature, as passed by the City Council in December 2015. Click here for a presentation given to City Council in May 2016 by the City's legislative consultants on the results of the 2016 session.
TRANSPORTATION FUNDING: LEWIS STREET OVERPASS: The Lewis Street Overpass project replaces a deteriorating and functionally obsolete 1937 railroad underpass on a former state highway. The 2015 transportation package passed by the Legislature includes funding for completion of Lewis Street Overpass, including $15 million in state transportation funding and $11 million from local sources. The City will actively work to identify full funding for the project, including seeking state and grant funding. Pasco also requests project funding to begin in earlier biennia in order to realize design and permitting cost savings.
CAPITAL FUNDING: EXTENSION OF UTILITIES AT ROAD 68 PROPERTY: Pasco will be requesting funding in the 2017-2019 Capital Budget to extend water and sewer infrastructure onto the Road 68 Property. The Department of Natural Resources is in the process of selling 330 acres located in a prime area for commercial and residential development. There are currently plans to develop transportation right-of-way through this property, but not any water or sewer utilities. Extending water and sewer would substantially increase the value of the land, and would increase the return-on-investment for the state.
CONSOLIDATION OF BENTON AND FRANKLIN COUNTY 911 CALL CENTERS: Both Franklin and Benton Counties have explored the idea of consolidating emergency call centers as one element of improving emergency response in rapidly growing communities throughout the area. Consolidation of emergency dispatch will provide seamless service to residents, and will decrease response times by preventing jurisdictional confusion. Pasco supports the efforts of Benton and Franklin Counties to seek capital funding in the 2017-2019 biennium to consolidate the Benton and Franklin County emergency dispatch center.
FUNDING FOR MENTAL HEALTH AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE PROGRAMS: There exists a substantial need to provide assistance to individuals in need of housing, as well as treatment for mental health and substance abuse issues. Unfortunately, many of the programs currently in place are overburdened and constrained by a limited budget, which can lead to tragic consequences. Pasco supports efforts to provide sustainable funding to programs that will support housing as well as mental health and substance abuse treatment for community members in crisis.
LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTION FLEXIBILITY: Until 1994, local governments had the authority to determine the most appropriate way to conduct local elections. Presently, only first-class cities can change their election process from at-large to district-based voting in a general election. Pasco supports legislation to give local governments the ability to create a system of voting that will ensure the best outcomes for their community.
INFRASTRUCTURE AND PUBLIC WORKS FUNDING: During the 2015 session, the Legislature passed budgets that included substantial funding for some infrastructure programs, including the Transportation Improvement Board (TIB) and County Economic Revitalization Board (CERB). Meanwhile, other programs, such as the Public Works Assistance Account (PWAA) faced substantial cuts. Pasco supports full funding of programs that support development and maintenance of local infrastructure.
RESTORE "STATE-SHARED REVENUES" FOR CITIES: Pasco receives approximately $1.3 million annually from the state, categorized as "state-shared revenues" (liquor excise tax, nuclear generating tax, sales tax mitigation, city/county assistance, etc.). Progress was made to strengthen these programs during the 2015 session, but additional resources are still needed to fund essential local services, including public safety. Pasco will continue to support preservation of these payments to cities; their loss will put in jeopardy the reliable delivery of important local public safety services.
PUBLIC RECORDS REFORM: Pasco supports reform to statutes governing public records requests. The 2015 Legislature directed the State Auditor's Office to conduct a study on the actual cost of providing public records, both paper and electronically. The City supports the completion of this study, and other reforms that will reduce city costs and address harassing records requests. In approaching this reform, the City recognizes the importance of transparency and accountability in government.
MARIJUANA LAWS: The new recreational marijuana industry is subject to a state excise tax, but very little of this revenue is directed to local governments to address public safety and other needs associated with this system. The City will monitor legislation associated with marijuana legalization, seek solutions to assist local governments in implementation of the recreational marijuana system, and support policies that retain local authority on regulations that govern marijuana production or sale.
NOTIFICATION OF PRE-ANNEXATION AGREEMENTS: Annexation agreements are signed by a property owner; the City agrees to provide city utility services, and, in return, the property owner agrees to be annexed into the City. When a property is sold, buyers are currently notified of existing pre-annexation agreements on a property's title report. Pasco has learned that homebuyers often overlook documentation provided with the title report, and purchase property unaware of whether such an agreement has been signed. The City supports legislation improving notification of existing pre-annexation agreements in the home buying process.
ELECTION OF JUDGES: Pasco opposes legislation mandating that part-time municipal court judges be elected rather than appointed. Appointed judges are equally qualified professionally and there is no compelling evidence that appointed judges are a threat to the administration of justice. In fact, requiring election of all judges would be very problematic for part-time courts, particularly in small and rural communities found throughout eastern Washington.
LABOR REFORM: One of Pasco's largest cost drivers is labor costs. The City supports legislation reducing these costs. For example, under state law, police and fire personnel are guaranteed binding arbitration for wages and benefits in lieu of the right to strike. While arbitration can be appropriate, current language obligates the arbitrator to give paramount consideration to what "comparable agencies" are paying rather than the ability of the employer to absorb the cost. Modification of the arbitration statute to provide clarity on comparability would better balance the interests of uniformed employees with those of the taxpayer.
For more information, contact or call the City's Manager's office at (509) 545-3404.