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What’s Happening in Olympia?

GSI Olympia

The legislative session is nearing its end in Olympia. Here are three things happening at the State Capitol that are of interest to us and the greater Spokane community:

1. The Future of a Port District in Spokane County
On Tuesday, House Bill 2547 passed in the Senate 48-1 after passing 95-2 in the House. The bill allows for the creation of port districts comprising less than entire county areas. We’ve written about the possibility of a Port District in Spokane County before, but let’s rehash: a Port District is a special purpose district with an economic development and transportation mission. Port Districts don’t have to be near a body of water, but many are. Establishing a Port District in Spokane County is something we’ve been discussing for a few years. This bill lays the groundwork for a future Spokane Port District that could greatly benefit economic development goals in our region.

2. Senate Releases Transportation Plan
Last Friday, the Senate Majority Coalition released three bills that codify the transportation bill it released in February. This plan includes funds for the North Spokane Corridor, highway and bridge maintenance and other needs in our area, giving our region the needed infrastructure improvements we need to support business and job growth, and capital investment. The bill calls for an 11.5 cent gas tax increase and offers more money for transit. The House’s plan, proposed late last year, calls for a 10.5 gas tax increase and differs in other ways. So what’s next? The Senate plan still needs to get out of its own chamber before the House and Senate can debate the two plans. So we will wait and see what happens. The Washington Wire does a great job going in-depth on this issue.

3. Two Very Different Budgets
With the end of the legislative session rapidly approaching, the Senate and House have begun to reveal their budget proposals. The Senate’s budget focuses on using the money from increasing state revenue forecasts toward education, while the House budget increases education spending by getting rid of tax exemptions, including sales tax for out-of-state shoppers. Much like the transportation packages, the two chambers will debate the spending plans. We will wait to see what the outcomes are.

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