The state Legislature adjourned its 2019 session on April 28 with a two-year, $52.4 billion operating budget.
Statewide, the operating budget boosts spending on K-12 education, higher education and mental health and includes $800 million in new taxes, said Senator Hans Zeiger, R-Puyallup.
In Puyallup, residents will see some of those tax increases.
“The cost to average people is going to go up because of what the Legislature did this session, whether it’s what they’re paying at the pump for their gas, whether it is what they’re paying when they go to a small business and buy their services,” Zeiger to The Herald on Friday.
Cost of rent also will increase with the state’s budget, said Rep. Kelly Chambers, R-Puyallup.
“The highest increase was put on those property sales that are over $3 million,” Chambers said. “So that’s going to affect commercial development, but it also affects the building of low-income housing. So if you’re going to build an apartment complex that’s going to be a $3-, $4-, $5-million dollar-plus project, that project is going to have the highest tax rate.”
Amelia Dickson, spokesperson for the Senate Democratic Caucus, said that the budget lowers taxes for the average low-income or middle class person through Real Estate Excise Tax (REET) reform, which reduces the tax rate for about 80 percent of real estate sales and increases funding for basic education, special education and pre-kindergarten.
Under the current policy, property sales of $500,000 or less have a 1.28 percent REET rate while the new policy reduces that to 1.1 percent, according to a revenue package provided by state House and Senate Democrats.
The budget also provides tax cuts for senior citizens and veterans with disabilities, Dickson said, by changing qualifications for long-term tax relief. Under the new policy, the qualifications are based on the county’s median income rather than a flat income of $40,000 or less per year.
Legislators of the state’s 25th District — Zeiger, Chambers and Rep. Chris Gildon — are Republicans and felt the tax increases were not necessary.
“Our economy’s doing well overall, so we’ve seen this revenue growth — over $50 million for the first time in our state’s history — and yet they felt they needed to add in these additional revenue sources,” Zeiger said.
Republicans lacked a majority in both chambers, Zeiger said.
The state’s $4.9 billion capital budget provides funds for projects throughout the region, as reported by The News Tribune’s James Drew. About $25 million will head to the 25th District.
Puyallup’s legislators highlighted the acceleration of the expansion of state Route 167.
The project by the state Department of Transportation would complete the highway from Puyallup to the Port of Tacoma in 2028 rather than 2031 using bonds for construction that will be repaid through tolls. The first stage of construction is expected to start this year, according to WSDOT.
“That freight corridor is critical to economic development here in Pierce County, and we need more jobs closer to home here in Pierce County,” said Zeiger, who worked to get the bill passed.
The capital budget also provides $3.3 million for pre-design and design of a new science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) building at Pierce College Puyallup. It’ll also expand the college’s parking.
“That’s really going to help them not just with the program of instruction, but with allowing more students on campus at a time,” Gildon said.
STEM is a high-need area for funding, Chambers said.
“We need to direct funding to the highest priority fields,” she said. “And if those shortages are in technology and nursing, I would like to see an emphasis put on to see particular areas where we have the greatest need.”
Others projects that impact the Puyallup-area include:
$1.75 million for Legacy in Motion in Puyallup
$515,000 for culvert replacement in Puyallup
$258,000 for Puyallup Street frontage improvement in Puyallup
$250,000 to Chief Leschi Schools in Puyallup for safety and security
$52,000 for renovation of the kitchen at the Puyallup VFW
$414,000 for improvement to the Puyallup Valley sports complex field
Other projects impacting the East Pierce area, including Bonney Lake, Sumner and Orting:
$309,000 for the Tehaleh Slopes bike trail in Bonney Lake
$258,000 for the Fennel Creek trailhead in Bonney Lake
$350,000 for Allan Yorke Park athletic field with lighting
$600,000 for the Orting City Hall and police station
$103,000 for the Orting Pedestrian Evacuation Crossing
$500,000 for the Stan and Joan Cross Park in Tacoma
$258,000 for Wapato Creek Restoration in Fife
$258,000 for Dawson Playfield tennis courts in Tacoma
Zeiger served on the Senate Housing Stability and Affordability, Tribal Relations and Elections, Humans Services and Transportation committees. Chambers served on the House Commerce and Gaming, Transportation, Health Care and Wellness, Rules committees. Gildon served on the House College and Workforce, Housing, Community Development and Veterans, Capital Budget and Rules committees.
Next session, Zeiger, Chambers and Gildon said the Legislature will continue to work on key issues like behavioral health, drug enforcement and closing the special education funding gap for school districts.