Redmond sets legislative priorities

At Tuesday’s Redmond City Council study session, council members were presented with a list of issues appearing before the state Legislature this session that could affect the city.

It also included a list of measures the city would likely support, and was presented by the city’s lobbyist Doug Levy and the city’s chief policy adviser Nina Rivkin.

Top priorities for the coming session included increasing the level and supply of affordable housing in Redmond and the state.

This includes monitoring the state housing trust fund, which the state budget has proposed to be set at $106.7 million for the fund in the 2017-2019.

City documents said this is more than the $75 million provided by the state to municipalities in the previous budget, but less than the $200 million sought by stakeholders.

A document recording fee increase from $40 to $90 that had been approved last session will see its implementation delayed until 2023.

The council also supports efforts by the state to fund programs that help mental health, drug dependency, human services and homelessness.

These include mental health system funding, steps to fight the opioid epidemic, job training, the Eastside Human Services Forum agenda and the Housing and Essential Community Needs program, according to city documents.

The city is invested in safeguarding state revenues that are shared by the state and local governments. They hope to push for an early adoption of the 2017-2019 state capital budget and seek extra funding to put police officers through two additional basic law enforcement training academy classes.

This would mean trainees would receive 18 classes instead of the current 16 classes.

The city also supports efforts to restructure the 1 percent property tax increase limit. Local governments are prohibited from raising property taxes more than 1 percent in any given year due to an initiative passed by conservative initiative activist Tim Eyman.

A substantial amount of time at Tuesday’s meeting was dedicated to discussing issues surrounding reclaimed wastewater and its use.

Redmond is working with water providers to receive the authority to require reclaimed water providers to meet a number of criteria.

These include obtaining city approval for the use of the water within the critical aquifer recharge area, and statewide for any city with a shallow aquifer that supplies drinking water.

They also hope to make sure city customers won’t be burdened with more costs from using reclaimed water in place of city water.

City staff hope to receive the ability to regulate the use of reclaimed water in the city’s aquifer area. Currently, the city’s aquifer supplies one-third of the drinking water in Redmond.

Greater control of reclaimed wastewater would let the city more thoroughly plan for the future and how to incorporate it into the overall water management plan, city documents said.

The state Legislature is set to begin session on Jan. 8 with an expected completion date of March 10.

It is an off-year session, meaning it is expected to be shorter.

However, state legislators will likely renegotiate the terms of the McCleary decision funding mechanism. In the 2017 session, which went into three consecutive special sessions, state Republicans proposed and passed a funding mechanism for McCleary, which greatly increased property taxes in Eastside communities.

Democratic state legislators have vowed to change this with a newly elected majority in the Senate.

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