The East King County Chamber Coalition began 2019 with its annual Legislative Breakfast, inviting elected officials from both the state and municipal levels, on Jan. 8.
The chamber heard from elected officials about the big issues in 2019 and the plans for the upcoming legislative session.
Legislators attending the breakfast were 44th District Rep. Mark Harmsworth, 48th District Sen. Patty Kuderer, 45th District Sen. Manka Dhingra, 43rd District Rep. Roger Goodman, 45th District Rep. Larry Springer, 31st District Rep. Drew Stokesbary, 11th District Sen. Bob Hasegawa, 5th District Sen. Mark Mullet, and 1st District Sen. Guy Palumbo.
Representatives from cities included Bellevue Mayor John Chelminiak, Bothell Deputy Mayor Davina Duerr, Issaquah Mayor Mary Lou Pauly, Kenmore Mayor David Baker, Kirkland Mayor Penny Sweet, Maple Valley Mayor Sean Kelly, Sammamish Deputy Mayor Karen Moran and Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson.
Moderator Enrique Cerna began the discussion by asking the mayors and city representatives what the main issues are in their cities. For most it came down to infrastructure and housing. In Kenmore, Baker said their big issue is infrastructure and economic development. For Snoqualmie, Larson highlighted funding for SR 18 and I-90 corridors, as they impact the entire region. Sweet said housing affordability was a major priority. Duerr also cited infrastructure as a big issue, but noted that addressing the opioid crisis in the region was also an important task.
Both Issaquah Mayor Mary Lou Pauly and Bellevue Mayor John Chelminiak agreed that transportation was a primary issue as the population grows and more people have to commute to work, which also leads to big issues in housing diversity and stock.
“For Issaquah it’s absolutely number 1 transportation and while we are not near highway 18, improvements to highway 18 will have a huge impact. We partnered recently with the chambers and city administration from Maple Valley, Black Diamond, Covington, Snoqualmie to make sure that happened,” Pauly said. “Also housing diversity. When we look at our housing stock in Issaquah, we used to be a suburb, we are turning into a city.”
When asked for what they would like to see legislature do to address these issues, Chelminiak said that he wanted to see the state investing money back into the infrastructure and housing. Senator Palumbo responded by saying that 2019 was going to be a big year for work on housing. He expects work to be done on policy such as condo liability reform, minimum density, SEPA reform, and tenant eviction reform.
On housing, legislators discussed possible solutions coming up in the pipeline. Sen. Hasegawa said that focusing on public housing options could be a solution to create housing at affordable levels. Rep. Stokesbary cited a city of Seattle bill that would allow a developer to get property tax credit if they redevelop properties and kept some of them at affordable rates. He felt that would be an important step in creating more housing stock at lower prices.
Rep. Springer pushed back against the idea of public housing and said the Legislature should make the regulatory burden on cities and painless as possible. Talking to other entities who develop infrastructure, such as Sound Transit, who can serve housing is important as well, he said.
Sen. Kuderer, chair of the new Housing Stability and Affordability Committee, said the organization is working to create more units, wants to collaborate with intergovernmental entities and outside organizations, and will focus on preventing people from entering homelessness.
“We are looking at building more, so we want to be able to work with for-profit and nonprofit organizations that work in this space to create more units available for people,” Kuderer said. “We are looking at building smarter in the sense that we want to collaborate so that this isn’t just silo’d with a city here and county there, but it’s intergovernmental related and also with for-profit and nonprofit organizations that work in this space.”
On transporation, discussions about funding infrastructure improvements were the main topic. Snoqualmie’s Mayor Larson discussed infrastructure funding and focused on tax reform in the state as a way to address inequity in funding sources. Kenmore Mayor Baker cited tolling as a way to pay for “sorely needed” maintenance as thousands of more cars now travel older roads throughout the state.
Senators Mullet and Palumbo both discussed gas tax investment and identifying sources for funding to start new construction and maintenance through tax revenue.
The East King County Chamber Coalition’s next big event is a Chamber Day in Olympia on Feb. 27, where members can see lawmakers at work and talk about priorities important to Eastside businesses.