Tacoma Urbanist

Mar. 17, 2008 at 12:06am

Did the WA Legislature Help Tacoma This Year?


This is an election year for Tacoma's Legislators.  The legislative session is over and its time to review their accomplishments for the year.  

With legislators soon to be asking for your vote, it seems appropriate to ask what they have done lately which would warrant it.

Question : Did Tacoma benefit enough to support the re-election of the current legislative members?  You make the call.

The TNT today lists a number of notable bills that came out of the legislature.  Some passed, others died.

Below is my Tacoma centric commentary on them.  Please feel free to add your own.


UW Tacoma: The Tacoma campus gets $3 million to buy land and clean up contaminated soil on properties it already has bought. In the budget.

Commentary: Nice I guess.  However, $3M does not seem like very much as far as colleges go.  I understand there are other funds allocated which would renovate the Joy building on Pacific.

Simpson Tacoma Kraft: HB 3116 would have waived the state sales tax for machinery to produce electricity from biomass, as the Tacoma Tideflats company is going to do. Died in the House.

It might be a good thing this bill failed.  With Tacoma violating the allowable pollution limit, do we really need to be burning more things in the city?  I know, I know "its a clean burning process" yet that's how they are all characterized.

Russell Investments headquarters: SB 6626 waives the state sales tax on construction of a new headquarters building for the international investment firm in Tacoma if it builds its new structure in certain economic zones – namely downtown Tacoma. Signed into law Friday.

Good.  Very good.  The sponsors of this bill deserve Kudos for keeping Tacoma in the game with Russell.

Roadblocks for drunks: HB 2771 would have let police set up roadblocks, or “sobriety checkpoints,” to pull over drivers, see if they’ve been drinking and arrest them if they fail sobriety tests. Died in a House committee.

I am glad it died.  Warrantless traffic stops for people who have not engaged in any criminal activity is a slippery slop.  Also, the TNT title is misleading.  It should have read: "Roadblocks for Everyone."

Bob Oke Bridge proposal: Senate Joint Memorial 8026 would have recommended naming the new Tacoma Narrows bridge after the late Republican senator from Port Orchard who championed its construction. Passed by the Senate Transportation Committee, but never got to the floor.

Commentary: Bob Oke made some great contributions at the legislature. However, the proponents who want a more iconic name for the new Tacoma Narrows Bridge have a strong case for doing so. 

Murray Morgan Bridge: The state increased its contribution toward renovating the dilapidated downtown Tacoma bridge to $40 million, up from $26.5 million. The new amount is about half the estimated cost to repair or replace it. In the budget. HB 3158 would have let Tacoma use part of the state sales tax to cover the rest of the cost, but that bill died.

Commentary: we have some progress made.  More to go.

Tolls: HB 1773 would establish a state policy for the Legislature to put permanent tolls on bridges and highways, charge higher tolls during rush hours to discourage traffic, and impose tolls before projects are finished. Toll amounts are to be determined later. Sent to the governor.

Commentary: Yes, yes, yes to tolls.  Let the people who choose to use roads pay for the appropriate cost for using them. The days of government subsidizing remote roads has been disastrous for Tacoma and Pierce County and has got to come to an end.

“Moonshine” bill: HB 2959 would lower the annual license fee for craft distilleries to $100 from $2,000 a year. It also would let them sell up to 20,000 gallons of liquor a year if at least half of their materials come from crops grown in Washington. Sent to the governor.

Morgan liked the microwinery bill passed last year.  I am sure he will like this one.  It allows Tacoma to "Go Local" in making hard liquor.  Why send our hard earned money to Kentucky distilleries?

Final Commentary:
The 2008 legislative year has been pretty good for Tacoma in the legislature.  There have been other years in which some legislative bills have been far less favorable to Washington Cities.  There have been bill which seemed to be designed to thwart cities like Tacoma.  But not this year.

Its difficult to find an appropriate and objective measure in which to evaluate Tacoma's legislators.

Here are a few possible objective measures:

1) Yearly increases in enrollment at UWT

2) Housing units constructed on UWT

3) Further fair share legislation for felon placement in Tacoma based on population with fewer loopholes.

4) Full funding for repair of Murray Morgan Bridge.

5) Incentives for further investment in cities such as Tacoma for residential and commercial.

6) Intra city street car system as recommended by Tacoma Streetcars and neighborhood groups.

comments [7]  |  posted under tacoma, washington


by morgan on 3/17/2008 @ 10:58am
Wow! I hadn't heard about the Moonshine Bill - that's great! I hope Chris signs it. Oregon is light years ahead of Washington state in terms of coming out of Prohibition. We tend to be a little slow to change.

As a result of their anti status-quo attitude and proactive policy making, there is some amazing sake, vodka, and pear liquor attracting praise (and sales) in Oregon.

I like the idea of "Drink Local." We need to think a lot more micro. Micro-wineries, micro-distilleries, micro-business districts.

And of course, we need streetcars.

by Erik on 3/17/2008 @ 12:16pm
Wow! I hadn't heard about the Moonshine Bill - that's great! I hope Chris signs it.

I knew you would like that one.

And of course, we need streetcars.

Yes. Better to drink and ride a streetcar than drive.

by fredo on 3/17/2008 @ 12:23pm
The proposal to name the new Narrows Bridge after Bob Oke is causing a lot of laughter in the Philippino community. In the region of the Phillippines that speaks Illicano dialect, Oke means vagina.

Regarding the tax waivers for construction work on a new Russell headquarters: what sort of message does this send to companies in the Tacoma area who pay their taxes without hesitation? I recently spent several thousand dollars of improvement expenses on my own commercial property. Yes, I paid all the permit fees and taxes too. People become understandably cynical when politicians attempt to socialize the costs which private businesses should shoulder on their own.

by Erik on 3/17/2008 @ 12:29pm
People become understandably cynical when politicians attempt to socialize the costs which private businesses should shoulder on their own.

Yes. The only problem is that other states and Washington cities have traditionally been much better at it than Tacoma. Plus, we have to compete on an international scale for Russell some of which many offer them greater incentives. We have no choice but to try to compete.

I think Eric Anderson and others do have a point with the city B&O tax system though. It encourages companies to locate outside of cities which has been a entropic disaster.

by Twisty on 3/17/2008 @ 4:43pm
Considering that Reps. Steve Kirby and Steve Conway blew off my letters, and Sen. Rosa Franklin wrote to say that she didn't have time to think about my issue...

NO, they don't deserve to be re-elected.

In fact, I'm waiting to find out who their opponents will be this fall, so that I can go out and ring some doorbells on their behalf. Because you see, Senator Franklin, I *DO* have time. Lots of it. Hopefully, you too will soon have plenty of free time.

by Erik on 3/17/2008 @ 5:00pm
What is your issue Twisty?

by Erik on 3/17/2008 @ 5:18pm

(Photo by Todd Matthews)

Via the Tacoma Daily Index:

Gov. Chris Gregoire Friday signed Senate Bill 6626 at the Economic Development Board of Tacoma-Pierce County’s annual business luncheon....

"This tax-break bill is important for Tacoma and for Pierce County," Gregoire said. "It is another economic development tool to continue this city’s amazing renaissance. These incentives can draw more high-paying, high-demand, professional jobs into Washington state."

"This legislation will help ensure that Tacoma and the other five cities that have community empowerment zones in our state will have the tools we need to continue growing," said Tacoma Mayor Bill Baarsma. "Tacoma needs these kinds of economic development tools to encourage business growth and retention, and to create a thriving downtown.


Nice work Todd.