City keeping an eye on the legislature's special session

With the legislature in a special session to deal with the state's biennial budget, officials in Renton are holding out hope that several of their priorities from the year will yet be approved.

At the top of the list for the city, according to spokesperson Preeti Shridhar are transportation issues, especially those dealing with the I-405/state Route 167 corridor project.

"Our big efforts are transportation because it has an impact on everything," she said Tuesday, adding that so far things seems to be "moving in the right direction" but there was still much to be decided in the budget.

Shridhar said the top concern for the city was making sure that any savings that is gleaned from current road projects in the corridor stay in the corridor for use planning the next phase of the project.

Shridhar said to date, both the House and Senate are in favor of keeping the savings in the corridor.

The city is also in favor of continuing the SR167 high occupancy toll (HOT) lane pilot program alive. The program, which allows single car drivers the opportunity to pay to use the high occupancy lanes, provides a strong source of revenue for construction projects, according to Shridhar, and both the House and the Senate appear to be poised to continue the program and it will likely be signed by the governor.

Renton is also lobbying the legislature to approve a Regional Mobility Grant of $1.28 million to provide funding for King County Metro's RapidRide F line, which will connect downtown Renton with points west, including the Southcenter Mall, the Tukwila Sounder Station and downtown Burien.

Shridhar said she expects the money to be part of the final budget.

City officials are also concerned about the distribution of gas taxes. The city supports the idea of direct distribution to cities and counties, who can then make the decision where the money can best be spent. Shridhar said that provision is still being debated and she was unsure how it would come out.

Another major ask from Renton is money for the Central Sound Aerospace Training Center, an ambitious project that grew out of the city's Chamber of Commerce moving from its airport location to its current building downtown.

Initially, there was talk of a smaller facility including a partnership with Renton Technical College that garnered a grant of $2.5 million from former governor Chris Gregoire.

But following that, the project was reviewed and more players got involved, deciding the need was for a larger facility, including space for classrooms and mechanic bays that can fit a full fuselage inside.

"Obviously this became larger than the city," Shridhar said.

The city is now working with the Aerospace Futures Alliance and requesting an additional $10 million (for a total of $12.5 million) for the facility.

Shridhar said the House and Senate have both approved $5 million for the center, but the governor is seeking the full amount.

"We're very hopeful there are enough representatives and senators that see the importance of doing this right," she said, adding that this too is part of the budget so they will have to wait and see.

Renton is also one of the cities supporting the retention of a $10 million per year liquor excise tax fund. The current fund expires in October. Shridhar said the fund means nearly $1 million to the city's coffers. Presently, the senate favors continuing the fund at a 50 percent level while the house supports retaining the full amount.

The city is also in favor or retaining the annexation sales tax credit, which provides cities with a share of state sales tax funding after a city annexes a large area. Shridhar said the money has been "very significant" following annexations such as Benson Hill and would be "very detrimental" if it is ended.

"We believe that - hopefully - it will go through to the final budget," she said.

In the public safety sector, the city supports continued money for gang prevention, which sets aside $500,000 statewide for cities to work on gang-related issues, of particular importance to cities in South King County.

Finally, Renton is requesting $1 million to replace a pedestrian bridge over the Cedar River at Riverview park that has been damaged in the past by flooding.

"It's a safety issue," Shridhar said.

Presently the money is the senate budget and not the house budget, but Shridhar remains hopeful.

"I'm going to be positive and optimistic and say yes," she said, adding "We'll see how it goes."

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