A horse arena proposal in Lewis County cleared another legislative hurdle Thursday, winning quick approval in committee for a public-facilities district financing bill.
Project director Larry Hewitt said that the Southwest Washington Regional Equestrian Center could employ 150 to 300 people during construction in 2009 and 30 to 50 full-time workers once it is up and running. The public-facilities district would retain up to $542,000 a year in state sales tax under Senate Bill 5390, which is sponsored by Sen. Dan Swecker, R-Rochester.
It now moves to the Senate Ways and Means Committee, where it faces an uncertain future. A similar measure, House Bill 1164, is sponsored by Republican Rep. Gary Alexander of Thurston County; it won approval earlier this week in an economic development committee, which moved the bill to the House Finance Committee.
-- Brad Shannon
Revenue lauded for improved efficiency
The Department of Revenue appears to be in legislators' good graces, and not just because it collects the money they spend through programs.
The agency has become significantly more efficient, going from an operating cost of 74 cents per $100 in taxes collected a decade ago to 67 cents per $100 in fiscal year 2006.
Department Director Cindi Holmstrom also told a House budget subcommittee that the agency's staff has grown by less than 1 percent since 1994, but collections have increased by 90 percent since then.
Holmstrom credited much of the improvements with increased use of Internet tax filing.
Rep. Mary Skinner, R-Yakima, asked whether Holmstrom could get the per-$100-collected cost down even further, to 50 cents.
"I'm not sure we could bring it down that far," Holmstrom said.
-- Adam Wilson
Rep. McCune wants to add aid for stations
Rep. Jim McCune, R-Graham, wants to add rural fire stations to the Public Works Assistance Account program.
"I think this is a public-safety issue," he told fellow members of the House Capital Budget Committee on Thursday. Some of the smallest volunteer fire stations are outdated and the small towns that operate them, such as Rainier and Eatonville, cannot afford upgrades, he said.
McCune hoped to add fire stations in low-population fire districts and counties to the list of allowed projects under the low-interest loans offered through the public works program.
Critics of HB 1470 said there already are too many demands on the state program.
"The trust fund itself has approximately $2 of requests for every dollar they have to loan. Beyond that, we're a little concerned that the proposal is not an exact match for the existing public works program," said Rick Slunaker, a lobbyist for the Associated General Contractors of Washington.
-- Adam Wilson