Kent city leaders plan to lobby the Legislature to keep streamlined sales tax (SST) mitigation, ensure capital budget funding for a new YMCA and other local projects and provide money for highway construction.
The City Council approved the city’s 2018 legislative agenda at its Dec. 12 meeting.
SST refers to a change in the way the state allocates sales tax revenue to cities. For purchased goods that require shipping, the state used to credit local sales tax to the community where the shipment originated which favored cities with warehouse and distribution center economies. The revised system established in 2007 now credits local sales tax revenue to the point of final delivery.
A recent study shows this change may have cost Kent more than $12 million a year over the last 10 years. The state established a SST mitigation program that has provided Kent with about $5 million per year over the last decade, but due to recent legislative changes, the mitigation fund is scheduled to end in October 2019. The loss of sales tax revenue, and now mitigation, is a major contributor to the city’s financial challenges starting in 2019.
The legislative priorities are determined after research and discussions with each of the city’s department directors, Mayor Suzette Cooke, Chief Administrative Officer Derek Matheson and the city’s legislative consultant Doug Levy.
“I’m glad our City Council realizes the importance of communicating with legislators on issues that affect the quality of life of Kent residents,” Cooke said in a news release.
Top priorities include:
• Kent will play a lead role in securing fiscal year 2018 supplemental funding to ensure adequate SST mitigation revenue through the fall 2019. This includes partnering with Association of Washington Cities to lead a legislatively-directed study to provide the 2019 Legislature with recommendations on what to do with SST mitigation for jurisdictions like Kent whose sourcing losses won’t be offset by taxes on online sales for many years, if ever.
• Kent wants to ensure 2017-2019 capital budget funding for the East Hill YMCA, Mill Creek Flood Stabilization project and Lower Russell Road levee enhancements. In addition to urging legislators to pass a capital budget for 2017-2019, the city of Kent wants to ensure that the capital budget allocates at least $1 million for infrastructure improvements needed to support a new East Hill YMCA, $4.17 million in programmatic grants for the YMCA building, at least $2 million for the Mill Creek Flood Stabilization project and funding for the Lower Russell Road levee enhancement work.
• Kent asks legislators to minimize city general fund impacts of a local match for the State Route 509/State Route 167 project and to provide supplemental funding in 2019 for a roundabout at Fourth Avenue and State Route 516, aka Willis Street.
• Kent seeks a technical fix to legislation passed in 2017 (House Bill 1959) which requires governmental entities selling land to first learn whether any “restrictive covenants” exist related to the property for sale. There is currently no limitation or definition on what constitutes a “restrictive covenant.” Kent is seeking an amendment in state law to “recorded restrictive covenant.”
• Kent requests a technical fix to state law under RCW 49.48.120, governing the steps public employers must take when issuing a final paycheck upon the death of an employee. State law currently allows state agencies, but not local governments, to steer that final payment directly to a spouse. The city seeks to amend the law so this authority is vested in both state and local jurisdictions.
Other key priorities for next year include providing affordable housing and addressing homelessness, ensuring safe streets, enhancing public safety and addressing mental health.
The complete list of 2018 legislative priorities is available online in the Kent City Council agenda packet dated Dec. 12, 2017 at KentWA.gov.