Dear Friends and Neighbors,
As I've noted in previous articles to our local chambers of commerce, I want to see reforms in our state transportation system before we ask citizens for more money. We have leaky pontoons, faulty ferries and ramps to nowhere. I believe we need to get down to the bottom of these systematic problems first. In other words, “Fix it BEFORE you fund it!”
One reason for excessive wear and tear of our highways is that so many of our citizens must drive long distances to go to work. We have essentially regulated industry, businesses and jobs to locate in certain areas, and have restricted growth under the state's Growth Management Act (GMA).
GMA is the comprehensive land-use planning framework for county and city governments in Washington. Enacted by the Legislature in 1990 and 1991, GMA establishes numerous requirements obligated by mandate or choice to fully plan for growth and development.
A major problem with GMA is that its “one-size-fits-all” restrictions creates inefficiencies and unnecessary expense to our state's transportation system. These requirements prevent businesses from locating in our communities and force people to travel up to 40 miles or more to their jobs. This creates more pollution, more traffic, more need for road repair and maintenance, and less quality time with our families.
With such a fragile economy, there are a number of counties across the state not experiencing growth. Yet, they are under the thumb of GMA. It's a challenge for them and for their citizens who either must commute long distances or may not have a job at all.
One of the six reforms in our “Fix it BEFORE you fund it” proposal is House Bill 1619. It would suspend the Growth Management Act requirements in counties with persistent unemployment, where regulations often stand in the way of economic development.
Olympia doesn't always know what's best for our communities. I believe local government officials should have greater control over their planning and use policies, rather than leaving oversight to a governor-appointed, non-elected state Growth Management Hearings Board.
In counties that have unemployment rates exceeding seven percent for three consecutive months, House Bill 1619 would suspend the Growth Management Act requirements for five years, or until the average rate of total seasonally-adjusted unemployment remains less than seven percent for three consecutive months.
What people want in Seattle and Olympia in terms of land-use planning doesn't always translate to a workable model in other parts of the state. Unfortunately, in areas of persistent high unemployment, GMA has been a barrier to jobs and growth. House Bill 1619 would help struggling local governments that need relief from the GMA, not only to save them money, but to allow them to focus their attention and limited tax collections on economic development. Local development would also ensure job growth close to home, so that employees aren't forced to spend the majority of their day commuting to work. And that would relieve stress on our highways and reduce costs so our transportation dollars go farther.
In your service,