Rep. Drew Stokesbary, R-Auburn, has introduced comprehensive legislation aiming to end Washington state’s homelessness crisis through a combination of compassion, enforcement and accountability.
House Bill 2658 offers a bold new approach by providing cities and counties funding for shelter and services, while also establishing strict policies to enforce the law and hold government accountable for results.
Washington state has the fifth-highest per-capita rate of homelessness in the nation, with chronic homelessness increasing 240 percent over the past three years.
Stokesbary’s bill would address the growing crisis in the following ways:
• Creates a partnership between the state and local governments by authorizing local governments to enact up to a one-eighth percent sales tax, with a dollar-for-dollar match of state funds.
• Grants cities and counties broad authority to fund programs that address or prevent homelessness, so long as the municipality prohibits supervised injection sites and encampments near schools, parks, playgrounds and courthouses.
• Requires governments to track and report data, conduct periodic performance reviews, and publicize how funds are being spent.
The new funding from House Bill 2658 would depend on local needs and voter support, but would likely be two to three times larger than the governor’s proposal over the next four years.
Stokesbary issued the following statement Thursday:
“Washington’s current political leadership has failed our state. Despite record revenue and billions in new taxes, the majority’s response to the homelessness crisis has been sluggish and insufficient, as has the governor’s.
“Governor Inslee’s strategy would raid the state’s rainy day fund, unwisely spending one-time funds on programs with clear ongoing costs. Moreover, his Olympia-centric proposal would have agency bureaucrats deciding which cities and strategies would be winners and which would be losers.
“I’m offering a better way forward for Washington state. My proposal would create a reliable revenue stream to empower local governments to select the strategies that work best for their own communities. It would help keep communities safe and clean by prohibiting supervised injection sites and encampments near schools, parks, playgrounds and courthouses. Finally, it would ensure accountability by publicizing how funds are being spent and requiring regular voter input.
“Our conscience and our constituents demand we make responding to the homelessness crisis a priority this year. House Bill 2658 does just that.”
The 60-day 2020 legislative session began Monday.