City to make a hatful of asks of its federal and state legislators

More bucks for housing assistance, more for mental health and substance abuse treatment, more for transportation and infrastructure.

And while lawmakers are at all that, what say they open more slots for future police officers at the state’s law enforcement training academy?

As Dana Hinman, chief administrative officer of the City of Auburn, told City Council members at a recent study session, those are among the many asks the City expects to make of state and federal legislators in 2019.

At or near the top of Auburn’s federal wish list will be help for the homeless and for the opioid crisis.

With homelessness having reached a state of emergency in King and Pierce Counties, and with local rents blowing roofs off of way too many heads, Hinman said, housing is moving out of reach for a lot of people.

On any given day last year in King County alone, she said, more than 11,000 people were homeless, and population growth and regional issues of housing affordability are only making the problem worse.

Which is why the City is so keen for the members of its congressional delegation to throw their weight behind federal housing assistance programs like rental assistance, Section 8 vouchers, expansion of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit, and programs that support affordable home ownership and additional services for the many veterans who call Auburn home.

Also on the federal level, the City will push for a permanent solution to the outdated Medicaid payment policy to allow hospitals to have a greater numbers of beds devoted to psychiatric care, either through administrative action or through legislation like the Medicaid CARE Act.

Which is why the City will ask its congressional delegation to support funding for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) ongoing implementation of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act passed in the 114th Congress, and efforts to address the growing crisis of opioid addiction in local communities.

Hinman said the City’s government affairs team will also continue to work with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and key lawmakers to devise a plan that allows for a final runway length at the Auburn Airport that meets the long-term goals of the city and region.

Likewise, the City will support federal efforts to pass an infrastructure package that provides federal resources for local infrastructure and transit programs that ensure the efficient movement of people and goods in the community.

Finally, at the federal level the City will prod Congress to support local funding priorities in any upcoming infrastructure investment package and to fully fund the transportation and transit programs listed in the FAST Act.

At the state level, the City, as it has done in other years, will continue to push for streamlined sales tax mitigation funds, joining other municipalities who’ve been hurt by SST.

Hinman said the City must strongly support the continuation of the SST Mitigation or face a budget hit. She said the Legislature recently enacted the Marketplace Fairness Act, which collects sales tax from many out-of-state retailers. In anticipation of new revenue from the Marketplace Fairness Act, the Legislature has indicated it intends to discontinue the SST Mitigation program in 2019. Revenues from the Marketplace Fairness Act , however, have not increased at a level that would make the Auburn community whole if the Streamlined Sales Tax Mitigation Program were discontinued.

“The City will need to make this a high priority atop the official legislative agenda. There are a number of cities in the same situation we can coordinate with,” Hinman said.

Also, the City will ask the legislature to fund additional slots at the Law Enforcement Academy so agencies can fill vacancies in a more timely manner. Today, it is increasingly difficult to fill officer vacancies, owing to the low number of spots available at the Academy. Indeed, several months may pass before a spot opens to begin training.

The City will likewise strongly support an initiative by the SCORE jail to adjust Department of Correction rates to more equitably reflect the market-based costs of housing such prisoners.

Finally, with Auburn’s existing diverse community and its growing population, Hinman said, there is an immediate need for a community gathering site in the downtown core. Auburn’s historic post office, when transformed into a vibrant cultural hub of arts programming, Hinman said, will serve as the ideal gathering spot.

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