Oak Harbor sets wish list for legislators

The Oak Harbor City Council set their Legislative priorities in an effort to stick their toe in the “big government’s” door.

The list, approved in December, is “a direct means in which to convey city of Oak Harbor’s wishes to the state Legislature for the upcoming legislative session,” said Paul Schmidt, city administrator.

The list includes six items specific to Oak Harbor, Schmidt said. The remaining were produced by the Association of Washington Cities.

Oak Harbor’s number-one priority is to retain Capron transportation funding. These funds allow island counties and cities to retain more gas tax revenue than their mainland counterparts, Schmidt said. Oak Harbor receives about $600,000 to $700,000 annually through the program for road maintenance and operations. Last year the city’s share totaled $693,000. Loss of this funding source would have a significant impact on the city’s ability to maintain the road surface.

“There’s been attempts to do away with Capron funding before,” he said.

Secondly, city officials hope legislators lobby for the restoration of the Public Works Trust Fund. The program loaned money to local governments and utilities for construction or planning. Lawmakers transferred $368 million from the Public Works Trust Fund to the state general fund in an effort to soften the financial blow of a $9 billion budget revenue shortfall last year. There’s still about $32 million left in the program, but the transfer effectively put the 24-year-old program on ice for two years.

The third request is to dissuade legislators from supporting unfunded mandates. In November the City Council begrudgingly approved an unfunded state mandate that makes it illegal to dump anything down a storm drain other than rain. The mandate is aimed at reducing pollution by both individuals and businesses.

The Oak Harbor affordable housing project made number four on the list.

The city applied for affordable housing grants from the Community Trade and Economic Development fund; however, the city’s project did not receive the grant award. City officials re-submitted their application for a $3.5 million sum in March as a “strategy move,” said Steve Powers, finance director.

The need to support enhanced funding for emergency 911 dispatch communications clocked in at number five. This would include support for such proposals as House Bill 2351, first introduced in April 2009. The bill creates an additional source of revenue to fund enhanced 911 systems through an excise tax on switched access, radio access and interconnected voice over Internet protocol service lines.

The sixth priority requests financial assistance for NPDES II Storm Water funding through the establishment of a fee and grant program.

The 62nd session of the Legislature will begin Monday, Jan. 11 and is scheduled to last for 60 days.

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