City casts needs, priorities to legislators

To soften the economic pain caused by the streamlined sales tax.

To continue to fight homelessness and the opioid epidemic

And to ensure that the mentally ill have places to go for treatment.

Those are among the priorities the City expects to press its legislators to advocate for or against at the state and federal levels in 2018, City Administrative Director Dana Hinman said recently.

Topping the list for Auburn, as for virtually every other community in the state, is the Streamlined Sales Tax or SST.

In 1991, a U.S. Supreme Court decision that declared the tax system at that time was too complicated to impose on retailers lackinga physical presence in a particular state gave e-commerce retailers a distinct advantage over “brick and mortar” storefronts, which “not only hurts local businesses but deprives the community of vital tax revenues,” Hinman said.

Even though the Streamlined Sales Tax program to which Washington State belongs means to simplify the tax code for resident businesses and online retailers, the program is not perfect.

And the City of Auburn among many others suffers the consequences, Hinman said. While the State of Washington and the country see a lot of retail activity from out-of-state sellers, the associated tax revenues are not materializing as they should.

That’s why the City of Auburn wants its legislative contingent to fight for mitigation solutions to the current shortfall in tax revenues, so that crucial services such as police and fire do not feel the pain. Indeed, the City is involved in a newly formed group of Cities and business organizations to analyze the local impacts of the SST program, including the Marketplace Fairness Act.

“The City will also advocate for timely results from the Department of Revenue study currently underway to determine SST impacts on communities like Auburn. The City is not advocating for new or increased taxes, just fair tax revenues we use for our critical community services, and a level playing field for its local businesses,” Hinman said.

Another top legislative priority for Auburn is homelessness.

It’s well known, Hinman said, that homelessness can result from a number of issues in a person’s life, some within and some outside that person’s control.

And that’s why the City of Auburn is working to help with the stabilization of its entire homeless population. At all levels, the City will work to secure and grow funding for programs and services that prevent and end the cycle of homelessness, Hinman said.

“Auburn must be afforded the opportunity to take full advantage of funding streams to implement on-the-ground solutions to provide access and long term assistance for a number of homelessness triggers such as job loss, addiction, untreated mental health issues, cost of living, and many others,” Hinman said.

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