By Richard Van Winkle, News of Mill Creek.
State Representative Mark Harmsworth attended the March 24th Mill Creek City Council meeting to inform councilmembers about legislation that concerns the city. Unfortunately, one of the things he spoke about, Mill Creek’s Public Works Shop grant, did not make it into the House Capital Budget released Friday, March 27th.
At the city council meeting former Mill Creek City Councilmember Harmsworth said he wanted to talk about “things that are relative to Mill Creek as well as some of the things he has been working on.” He said he serves on two very different, but somewhat connected committees: the Transportation Committee, and the Technical and Economic Development Committee.
Representative Harmsworth told the Mill Creek City Council how his position may help the city receive state transportation money, “The Transportation Committee deals with state-wide issues, but there is a small portion of that budget that is very relevant to Mill Creek around local dollars that can be used for different things.”
“The transportation budget is typically put together in dark and steamy rooms and out pops a budget at the other end which has got all of the different things for our state and local transportation projects.”
In this legislative session the State Senate began the transportation budget process. As ranking Democrat on the Senate Transportation Committee, Senator Steve Hobbs was able to add $4 million for Mill Creek’s 35th Avenue SE project into the transportation plan passed by the Republican-controlled Senate early in March.
Representative Harmsworth said that he is also working to include the 35th Avenue SE project in their version of the budget, “On the House side, I started speaking to our ranking member there to get money put into the budget on that side, so that when the budget crosses the isle, it shows up the other side.”
Even if the $4 million allocated to the 35th Avenue SE project survives the budget process, Representative Harmsworth explained that Mill Creek would still have to fund a large part of the flooding problem fix, “Because a lot of the projects that we do are matching dollars, so we like to see some participation from the local municipalities.”
The February 2014 estimate for the 35th Avenue SE construction project is about $6.3 million, which means Mill Creek would still have to find $2.3 million to alleviate the flooding that occasionally shuts down the regional north-south transportation route through the city.
One way for Mill Creek to fund capital projects is to borrow from the State’s Public Trust Fund at low interest rates. Unfortunately the State raided this funding source in past years to pay for public schools and other items in the budget. There are no longer any available funds.
Representative Harmsworth wasn’t very optimistic that this funding source for capital projects would be restored, “Right now I think that the Public Trust Fund is intact, but I wouldn’t hold your breath on that one.”
Representative Harmsworth also talked about his efforts to include a grant for Mill Creek’s new Public Works Shop in the state’s Capital Budget. He said, “Tom Gathmann (Mill Creek Public Works Director) put a request in, which was great, thank you very much Tom, your work on that was very helpful, for the Public Works Building.”
Unfortunately, Mill Creek’s Public Works Shop grant did not make it into the House Capital Budget. The first draft package that was released on Friday, March 27th, did not include any money for Mill Creek. However it did contain $500 thousand for another project that Representative Harmsworth supports, the Cavalero Hill regional skate park in Lake Stevens.
Another transportation project that has implications for Mill Creek is the Community Transit’s SWIFT II Bus Rapid Transit expansion. The first new route will run from Canyon Park to the Boeing Plant in Everett and have stops on the Bothell-Everett Highway in Mill Creek.
The Senate’s transportation plan includes funding for this project and Representative Harmsworth is very positive on Community Transit and believes other legislators feel the same way. He said, “There should be money for local buses, which is great.”
Councilmember Todd asked about the liquor tax revenues that the State has taken away from cities in past years.
Representative Harmsworth said he was relatively positive about these tax revenues coming back to the cities, “I haven’t heard that they have decided not to share the revenues.”
“There has been a renewed effort to make sure that any shared revenue goes back to cities and I’ve always said that with anyone who has talked with me, both for liquor and potentially marijuana.”
A change in marijuana tax revenue distribution is included in the comprehensive marijuana markets reform bill now being considered by the House. HB 2136 also incudes merging the now separate medical and recreational marijuana laws.
The legislature has until the end of their regular session on April 26th to do their work this year. Many believe at least one special legislative session will be required in this very difficult budget year.