By Stefanie Donahue
With the 2018 legislative session now over, governmental affairs consultants are encouraging Blaine City Council and city staff to start developing plans for the 2019-21 legislative biennium.
The discussion took place on March 19 during a presentation led by Gordon Thomas Honeywell consultants Briahna Murray and Hanna Jones.
The pair was hired by the city prior to the 60-day legislative session commencing and worked in-hand with elected officials representing District 42 to seek funding to extend utility infrastructure to east Blaine and to update an Interchange Justification Report (IJR) for a project to add a new southbound off-ramp on I-5 at exit 274.
“Brianna and I are successful in our efforts because of the city’s delegation,” Jones said about state Senator Doug Ericksen (R-Ferndale) and representatives Vincent Buys (R-Lynden) and Luanne Van Werven (R-Lynden). “They really fought hard to get this funding for the city.”
Prior to the 60-day legislative session adjourning on March 8, the state lawmakers passed more than 300 bills, in addition to supplemental operating, capital and transportation budgets.
Pending the signature of Governor Jay Inslee, Blaine will walk away with $1.2 million (allocated in the supplemental capital budget) to extend utilities into east Blaine and $550,000 (allocated in the Legislative Evaluation and Accountability Program transportation budget) to update the IJR.
Good news aside, Blaine still has work to do. “We take the interim as an opportunity to get ready for the 2019 session,” Jones said. “It’s really important that we stay on our game.”
According to legislative funding requests submitted by the city during the 2018 session, the I-5 at exit 274 interchange project still requires $25 million for phase two and extending utilities to east Blaine still requires approximately $2.1 million. A private developer has committed $3 million to help pay for the utility extension.
“The funding availability in 2018 was significantly limited,” Jones said. “There is significantly more room to get that funding in the larger budget.” In Washington, the state legislature meets for 105 days during odd-numbered years and is also responsible for passing a state budget.
Moving forward, Jones encouraged the city to keep a close eye on the November 2018 mid-term elections. All members of the House and half of the Senate are up for re-election, including Ericksen; Bellingham city councilmember Pinky Vargas is running against him.
“With these narrow majorities, the outcome of the November 2018 elections could change which party controls one or both of the legislative chambers,” Murray and Jones said in a letter penned to Blaine City Council and city staff. “We will be closely following the political implications of the elections and advise the city accordingly.”