Legislators’ priorities reflect education, transportation needs
January 15, 2013
By Warren Kagarise
Lawmakers confronted a familiar scenario as the Legislature convened Jan. 14 — a budget shortfall, opposing pressures to preserve essential services and rein in government spending, and a court mandate to spend more money on education.
Observers expect education and transportation to rank as the dominant issues in the 105-day session. The state faces a $900 million budget shortfall for 2013-15 and, in the meantime, faces a court order to increase education funding by 2018.
In addition to the statewide issues on legislators’ docket, a lobbyist hired by city leaders to represent Issaquah is in search of support for local projects, including dollars to upgrade transportation infrastructure and Lake Sammamish State Park.
Issaquah is also focused on securing state dollars for a transportation improvement district in North Issaquah near Costco headquarters and high-traffic retail centers.
In December, then-Gov. Chris Gregoire included $5 million for the project in the proposed 2013-15 state budget. The money is meant for the city to help purchase environmentally sensitive areas, design and construct pedestrian and bicycle trails, and enact other improvements.
What to know
Issaquah is divided between the 5th and 41st legislative districts. In Olympia, a delegation of four representatives — two Democrats, two Republicans — and two senators — a Democrat and a Republican — serves local constituents.
5th Legislative District
Most Issaquah neighborhoods fall inside the suburban-rural district. The expansive district stretches from Carnation to Maple Valley, and from Issaquah to Snoqualmie Pass.
Sen. Mark Mullet
Rep. Chad Magendanz
Rep. Jay Rodne
41st Legislative District
The district wraps around the southern shore of Lake Sammamish to encompass Issaquah neighborhoods along the lake and on Cougar Mountain. The district stretches from Mercer Island to Sammamish.
Sen. Steve Litzow
Rep. Judy Clibborn
Rep. Marcie Maxwell
However, incoming Gov. Jay Inslee also prepared a budget proposal for the Legislature, and the plan could change or remove the suggested dollars for Issaquah.
Democrat Mark Mullet, a freshman state senator and former Issaquah City Council member, said the state could reap revenue rewards from sales tax.
“Obviously, they’re getting a great payback on their $5 million investment,” he said in a pre-session interview. “I’m going to fight hard to keep it in there.”
Other advocates for the community include a mix of freshman and veteran lawmakers in the local delegation.
Olympia newcomers Mullet and Chad Magendanz, a former Issaquah School Board member, served in local elected offices before voters chose them for open seats in the Legislature.
Some local lawmakers legislate from powerful perches — state Rep. Judy Clibborn, D-Mercer Island, leads the House of Representatives transportation panel and state Sen. Steve Litzow, R-Mercer Island, is the education chairman in the Senate.
Education dominated the fall campaign, as legislators scrambled to comply with a state Supreme Court decision. The ruling in McCleary v. State of Washington last year ordered the Legislature to fully fund K-12 education by 2018.
Local priorities could run aground against the projected shortfall, demand for education dollars and attempts to shore up transportation funding.
“The only thing I want to go to the voters and ask money for this year is for transportation,” Mullet said. “My personal goal is to try to fund all-day kindergarten within the current budget, and then work on how you would, if you ask voters for money in 2014, what it would go toward in terms of student outcomes.”
King County leaders last month asked state legislators for a gas tax increase and for the ability for counties to collect a vehicle tab fee for road maintenance.
In a letter to state lawmakers, Eastside elected leaders joined King County Executive Dow Constantine and Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn in asking legislators to raise the gas tax by 8 cents to fund ailing roads.
The proposal offered from Constantine, McGinn and the Sound Cities Association calls for 65 percent of gas tax revenue to go to the state and 35 percent to go to local transportation projects.
(Issaquah is a member city in the Sound Cities Association, a regional advocacy group once called the Suburban Cities Association.)
Officials also asked for legislators to allow counties to collect up to a $40 vehicle tab fee to fund transportation projects and for a countywide vehicle tax for up to $150 per $10,000 of vehicle value.
The proposals could receive a chilly reception in Olympia.
“I’m a big believer in local control, so if there is the will of a community to support additional revenue for specific targets, then the burden is really on that local government to make the case to their constituents,” Magendanz said. “I don’t think we, as a state, should step in and put ourselves in between that process.”