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Federal Way's legislative priorities for 2011 include protecting money, regulating pawn brokers
With a demanding session ahead, 30th District legislators met with Federal Way leaders earlier this month to discuss the city's 2011 legislative priorities.
State Sen. Tracey Eide (D) and State Reps. Katrina Asay (R) and Mark Miloscia (D) were in attendance. The city's seven council members and mayor were also present. The list of priorities is more concise this year compared to past years in an effort to focus on Federal Way's immediate needs — and in realization that the state faces a nearly $5 billion deficit.
"Right now we are trying to restore government," Eide said. "We're trying to do more with extremely less dollars."
Still, Federal Way's priorities are achievable, although challenging.
The city's top concerns are as follows.
Protecting state-shared revenues
The City of Federal Way has an interest in protecting revenues that the state shares with it. These include liquor profits, liquor excise taxes and criminal justice taxes, among others. The taxes make up about 10 percent of the city's revenue stream, city spokesman Chris Carrel said.
"Our key is making sure there is an equitable distribution and we try to prevent or minimize deductions," he said.
Eide said she and her cohorts got the "do no harm" message.
Holding on to $14 million in state funding originating from the Triangle Project — improvements to the Interstate 5, Highway 161, Highway 18 interchange — is another top priority. The money was generated when a lower-than-projected construction bid was accepted on the first phase of the project, which began in August 2010.
Instead of returning the money to the state, the city wishes to use it to reincorporate an element that, prior to the project going to bid, was cut out of the first phase in an effort to accommodate the budget.
The $14 million would be put toward the construction of a flyover ramp connecting Weyerhaeuser Way South to South 348th Street. The project's estimated cost is $14.4 million, Carrel said, with no additional city money needed.
Eide, who serves on the Legislature's transportation committee, said trying to keep the money in the 30th District will be tough because there is plenty of competition for the funds. Projects such as the Interstate 520 bridge and the Alaskan Way viaduct are contenders for the money.
Support was solicited for measures that could boost economic development in Federal Way. The city council asked the legislators to support a bill that would extend and repurpose a series of King County taxes — which include sales and use, hotel-motel, rental car, admissions and restaurant taxes — that support cultural services, the performing arts and sports facilities, specifically Safeco Field and Qwest Field.
The bonds on Safeco Field are expected to be repaid ahead of schedule — by 2011's end. Bonds on Qwest Field are expected to be retired in 2021. The county has the authority to extend the taxes after each sports facility is paid off, according to a summary of House Bill 2264, which was heard in 2007. Federal Way would like to see the taxes continue with revenues going toward the Weyerhaeuser King County Aquatic Center — a public sports facility — and a future civic center for arts and cultural activities.
Eide said meeting this request will be challenging.
The city also asked that the state legislators be flexible in how they allow Federal Way to use money it has already secured for the civic center. The city has banked land for the project, but little else has been accomplished. The city has until 2020 to construct the facility.
"We're not asking for additional money for the (civic center), but asking that they keep in mind providing flexibility in using the money down the road," Carrel said.
Lastly, the city has urged its legislative representatives to support a proposed bill that would require pawn brokers to hold personal items made from precious metal (such as jewelry) for longer and cooperate more with police to determine if the goods were stolen.
The region has experienced increases in home burglaries and property theft. The bill is designed to address that. It will be introduced by Eide in the Senate and Asay in the House. It will be directed at regulating pawn brokers and similar businesses, and will not address commercial theft of precious metals such as copper wire, Carrel said.
The meeting went smoothly and the city does not have any concerns about the topics discussed with Federal Way's state representatives, Carrel said.
There was "certainly a commitment from the legislators to do their best for the Federal Way community," he said.
Eide said it was beneficial for her to meet with the city's officials so she is clear on how she can best serve them in this year's session.
"I really appreciate when we sit down and talk and find out what their priorities are," she said.