On Wednesday night, my seatmates Rep. Tina Orwall and Mia Gregerson and I enjoyed a lively discussion of legislative issues with a wonderful group of constituents who called in with terrific questions for our telephone town hall. You can hear the full discussion here:
Public utility districts, ports, and other public districts would gain a low-interest alternative financing mechanism to pay for major investments to the essential infrastructure that keeps their water clean, their buildings intact, and their economy robust, under legislation that passed today out of the Senate.
Senate Bill 5624 and Senate Joint Resolution 8204, sponsored by Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, would authorize the state to combine the local bonding authority of multiple small jurisdictions into a state pool managed by the state treasurer with the technical advice of the state Public Works Trust Account.
“By themselves, many ports, public utility districts, and water and sewer districts across our state struggle to finance construction projects that their communities desperately need to remain competitive or to flourish economically,” Keiser said. “By pooling their resources into a single, larger fund backed by the state’s full faith and credit, we can provide loans at much lower interest rates than they can leverage by themselves.”
Keiser’s bond plan addresses the ability to bond local projects that dried up when the funds in the state Public Works Trust Account were diverted to help balance the state operating budget. The state, with its considerable resources and AAA credit rating, would buy bonds to fund the local projects at far lower interest rates than the individual jurisdictions can arrange.
“This will enable these districts to maintain and improve their infrastructure at prices they can afford,” Keiser said. “Unlike the funds that were in the Public Works Trust Account, the bonds behind these loans can’t be diverted to the operating budget. So this creates a permanent, sustainable fund to meet the infrastructure needs of communities across the state.”
SB 5624 passed unanimously and SB 8204 passed on a 47-2 vote.