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More on the State Budget

Back in January, Governor Inslee proposed a $54.6 billion budget for the coming biennium, with $3.5 billion in new spending. Now the House has adopted a $52.6 billion budget and the Senate has come in at $52.2 billion.

By comparison, a maintenance budget, meaning continuation of existing spending levels for the next two years, including our K-12 obligations under McCleary v. State, would hit the $51.0 billion mark.

How would the legislature propose to pay for a couple billion more in spending?

The House has proposed a 9.9% capital gains tax, a graduated real estate excise tax increase from 1.2% to 2% on homes over $1.5 million and 3% if the home sells for more than $7.0 million.

The House also proposes a B&O tax increase on a variety of services from 1.5% to 1.8%, with large technology companies seeing an increase from 2.0 to 2.5%, to pay for a revamped College Promise scholarship program and career connected learning.

The Senate budget assumes 8.9% tax on capital gains profits above $250,000 per household and the REET proposals is as follows:

1)      0.75% if the selling price is less than $250,000;

2)      1.28% if the selling price is $250,000 to $1 million dollars;

3)      2.0% if the selling price is $1 million dollars to $5 million dollars; and,

4)      2.5% if above $5 million dollars.

With $5.6 billion more to spend in the coming biennium, then legislators had when they wrote the current budget, many in the business community are questioning the need for $1.4 billion in proposed tax increases.

Next time we’ll look at how the money would be spent. In the meantime, let us know what you think.


Meydenbauer Bay Park is Open

Many Chamber members and their families were present on Saturday, March 16 for the Grand Opening Ceremony for Meydenbauer Bay Park. The enhanced and expanded park now offers seven acres and a quarter mile of public access waterfront in the heart of Old Bellevue.

Longtime residents know that a century ago, Meydenbauer Bay was the winter home to a fleet of whaling ships, and offered auto ferry service aboard the Leschi, across Lake Washington from 1914 – 1950.

Congratulations to several generations of Bellevue elected officials and staff for the 32 years of planning, funding and property acquisition necessary to make Meydenbauer Bay Park a reality.

Note: This editor can’t wait to for the annual Christmas Ships Festival to visit Meydenbauer Bay again this December.


City Boards and Commissions Need You

Here’s another chance for aspiring civic leaders to serve on one of the City’s boards and commissions. The Bellevue City Council will soon consider appointments to the Arts, Environmental Services, Human Services, Planning and Transportation commissions, as well as the Library Board.

Many current and former councilmembers got their start in public life by serving on an advisory body. Whether you see yourself as a future candidate for public office or simply wish to give back to the community, learn more at the Boards and Commissions Recruitment webpage.

 

More on Chamber Day

Now more than ever, it is important for businesses of all sizes to have a voice in Olympia. On February 27th, representatives of the East King County Chambers of Commerce Legislative Coalition descended on the state capitol for Chamber Day 2019. We shared our common legislative agenda with elected officials from up and down the I-405 corridor and around both ends of Lake Washington, including the following:

See photos from Chamber Day and review our legislative priorities at the Coalition website.

 

Meydenbauer Bay Park Grand Opening This Saturday

After years of preparation and anticipation, the newly expanded and enhanced Meydenbauer Beach Park will once again be open to the public. Don’t miss the community celebration and ribbon-cutting on Saturday, March 16, 11 AM – 2 PM.

 

BelRed Transformation

From Link Light Rail to multi-use development in the Spring District, change is coming fast to the Bel-Red corridor. Would like to know more?

Mark your calendar for “Bel-Red Transformation: Coffee and Conversation” on Tuesday, March 26, 7:30-9:30 at the Global Innovation Exchange (GIX) building, located at 12280 NE District Way.

Additional details are available at the City’s event page.

Friends,

Thank you, for this opportunity to serve our business community in this exciting new role. I so appreciate the warmth of your welcome and your enthusiasm for growing this organization.

This is an important time for our city and for our region. An active, thriving, and influential Chamber of Commerce has never been more integral to the future development of Bellevue. While I have only been on board less than a week, I have been overwhelmed by the talent and energy of our staff and the passion of our members small and large.

This will be a transformative year for Bellevue and for the Chamber organization. As I spend these next few months learning more about the community and our members I hope that you will reach out to introduce your business. Please contact me to find a time where you can tell me about your organization. I want to learn more about your vision for how the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce can help you and our community succeed.

Best wishes,

Joe

Bellevue Hires New City Attorney

Late last year, longtime Bellevue City Attorney Lori Riordan retired from public service. Now the City has announced her successor, Kathy Gerla. After decades of experience practicing law in our state, including stints as an assistant state attorney general and deputy county prosecutor, Kathy will join the City of Bellevue’s leadership team.

A native of Eastern Washington, Kathy now resides in the Newport Hills neighborhood of Bellevue. If you see her at City Hall or out in the community, please give Kathy a warm welcome.

Neighborhood Transportation Levy Update

For many Chamber members and their employees, simply getting to and from work each day can be a challenge on congested local arterials. In 2016, the Chamber strongly supported Bellevue Proposition Two – otherwise known as the Neighborhood Safety, Connectivity and Congestion Relief levy.

Now is your chance to find out how the City has spent levy proceeds so far and help shape future project selection. Mark your calendar for one of the following open houses:

 

Chamber Day 2019 at the State

The Legislature has convened in Olympia for a 105-Day Session and elected officials need your feedback. Here’s your opportunity to get out of the office or off the production line for a day and join fellow business leaders from ten East King County Chambers of Commerce, on a whirlwind journey around the capitol campus.

We’ll prepare talking points, order you a box lunch and schedule appointments with Eastside legislators. Mark your calendar for Wednesday, February 27 and register online or learn more at our event page.

And if one day in Olympia is not enough, sign up for the Association of Washington Business (AWB) Legislative Day and Hill Climb on Tuesday, January 29 and stay for the fabled evening reception with elected officials.

Don’t miss these opportunities to make your voice heard!

 

Possible Transportation Package

Late last year, the Association of Washington Business held one of several transportation listening sessions at the Bellevue Chamber of Commerce. The feedback was clear; just four years after adopting the $16 billion Connection Washington package, the need for additional transportation investments statewide is overwhelming.  Nowhere is this more apparent than along the I-405 suburban crescent!

Fortunately, the outlines of a possible 2019 transportation deal emerged over the holidays. Senator Steve Hobbs, chair of the Senate Transportation Committee is suggesting a $14 billion package over 10 years, to be comprised of the following:

o   6 cent gas tax, yielding $2 billion;

o   A carbon fee of $15 per metric ton, generating $6.2 billion;

o   Statewide transportation impact fee to generate $1billion;

§  $2.50 per square foot for commercial properties;

§  $1.00 square foot for manufacturing and residential properties;

o   Weight fees, license fees, sales tax on auto parts, a rental car tax and an additional sales tax on bikes.

o   Double electric vehicle fee from $150 to $300

These are just preliminary ideas, so we’ll keep you posted.

Access Bellevue Transportation Guide

Want to know where to find information about the status of Sound Transit projects in Bellevue? Check out Access Bellevue 2019 as prepared by City staff. This helpful guide is chock full of useful information on East Link light rail capital project delivery schedules and milestones, as well as other transportation and parks capital investments. There’s a lot planned for 2019, so find out what’s coming ahead of time. 

By the way, this is something the Chamber requested so that businesses can plan for construction related disruptions.

 

East King Chambers Coalition Legislative Agenda

The East King County Chambers of Commerce Legislative Coalition has adopted its policy agenda for 2019, just in time for the upcoming 105-Day Legislative Session.

Business leaders tell us that housing affordability and transportation solutions that keep people and goods moving are at the top of their list, so we’ve given those topics top billing, along with higher education and vocational training at all levels.

The Coalition prepared a record number of seven new policy recommendations this year, including a first time ever Housing Position Paper; review them all on our web page at Coalition Publications.

 

Chamber Day 2019 at the State Capitol

The Legislature will convene in a little over four weeks and we’re already planning Chamber Day 2019 at the state capitol in Olympia! Mark your calendars for Wednesday, February 27, 2019 and join business leaders from across East King County, as we swarm the capitol campus and advocate for our legislative priorities.

We know it can be a challenge for business owners and CEO’s to take time away from their businesses. That’s why we set up appointments with local legislators, arrange for carpools and box lunches, and prepare talking points; all you need to do is show up.

Stay tuned for additional details on this page as the date nears.

 

Bellevue Budget Wrap-Up

On December 3rd, the Bellevue City Council adopted the 2019-20 Operating Budget and 2019-25 Capital Improvement Program. In general, we think Bellevue is a well-run city and there is a lot to like about this new budget.

We support strongly additional police and fire services personnel, as well as resources for the City’s unfunded Law Enforcement Officers and Fire Fighters (LEOFF I) pension liability.

We’re also grateful for continued investments in transportation technology, neighborhood congestion relief and core investments in our Transportation CIP, including the Bellevue Way SE project at $ 9.0 million.

With revenues projected to exceed revenues by 2021, however, the City’s Ending Fund Balance (EFB) is likely to drop below 15% by 2023. We believe the case has been made for 1% general property tax increase in the coming biennium, but not in perpetuity.

To help prevent the need for future tax increases, we’ll work with Council to identify ongoing efficiencies and reduce the cost of government. An excellent example is the City Manager’s proposal to save up to $500,000.00 to reduce rapidly escalating employee health care costs.

Finally, we want to thank all members of the Bellevue Chamber/Bellevue Downtown Association for their hard work; be sure to review our joint letter to the City

 

 

Magic Season in Bellevue Street Closures & Traffic Map

The Holidays have arrived and with them, Magic Season in Downtown Bellevue. Whether you plan to experience the Snowflake Lane At The Bellevue Collection, take a turn on the ice rink in Downtown Park, experience the beauty of Garden d’Lights at the Bellevue Botanical Garden or take a quiet stroll on Main Street, be sure to consider your travel and parking destinations ahead of time.

And be sure to consult with the City’s interactive, live traffic map before you begin your trip.

 

King County Charter Review

Local government experts know that King County is one of only seven with home rule charters, allowing them to adopt their own form of government that may depart from the commission form prescribed by state law.

Back in 1968, a Board of Freeholders proposed a county charter which was adopted by the voters and every ten years since then, a commission has been formed to review the county charter and propose amendments to the voters.

Members of the general public have a chance to weigh-in on possible changes to the charter on any number of topics including the perennial favorite, whether we should have a separately elected office of county sheriff.

Learn more about the charter review process and take a survey here.

 

Human Services Commission Opening

One of the best ways to get involved in public life, is to serve as a member of a municipal government board or commission. The City of Bellevue is now seeking applicants for a vacant position on its Human Services Commission. The purpose of the Commission is to advise the City Council concerning human services planning and funding, including regional service integration strategies.

If you’d like to be considered for this opening, fill out and return a paper or online application no later than December 7th, 2018. Learn more at the Commission’s webpage.

 

This year’s Economic Forecast event was very informative, and yes, even entertaining! We got an insider look on the year ahead including the Eastside Business Leader outlook, insights on the Eastside housing market, and the global and national economic pulse.

We know it takes lots of time to stay on top of key economic indicators, so check out our 2019 Eastside Economic Strategy Guide packed with information, market intelligence and insights to save you time. The Guide includes the results of our 25th annual Eastside Business leader survey, which gives us a sense of the current and future economic climate in our region.

Daryl Fairweather, Chief Economist with Redfin talked about the factors influencing the housing market and what current indicators are revealing. Click here to view her presentation.

Joe Quinlan, Chief Market Strategist with Bank of America is a local favorite for his candid insights regarding the global and national economy. Each year, Joe shares his top reads related to factors that impact the economy:

Joe “checked his glasses” and is still optimistic. He says we’re experiencing an economy that is “as good as it gets so let’s fix things.” He said it’s up to corporate leadership to solve the challenges that impact our community today. He emphasized that now, more than ever, we should appreciate what leadership means. We’re fortunate to have great leaders in our community and we hope you’ll work alongside us in the coming year to keep the Eastside a great place to work and do business! 

A Thank You to City Staff

With all the acrimony surrounding this year’s election cycle, I would like to pause and thank City of Bellevue staff for the good work they do, every day in our community.

Earlier this year, I contacted Bellevue Parks staff and suggested installation of a bench at Bannerwood Sports Park. They agreed and now there is a new bench and picnic table in a nice shady area facing the Richards Creek basin, a great place to experience local flora and fauna.

Thanks again to Bellevue Parks staff for your customer-service attitude! Read the full story on page four, in the October issue of Bellevue It’s Your City.

 

Preliminary Election Results

While much of election night media coverage focused on which party would control the U.S. House and Senate, there were two ballot measures of importance to business, right here in Washington.

The Bellevue Chamber opposed Initiative 1631, establishing a carbon fee and supported I-1634, preempting local option grocery taxes. Read more about our positions in recent issues of Bellevue Blitz.

Here are the preliminary statewide results:

Initiative Measure No. 1631 – carbon fee

Measure              Vote                      Vote %

Yes                       850,861              43.68%

No                        1,097,277            56.32%

Total Votes           1,948,138           100%

Initiative Measure No. 1634 – grocery taxes

Measure              Vote                      Vote %

Yes                       1,062,381             54.78%

No                         876,921               45.22%

Total Votes            1,939,302            100%

To see vote totals by County or to track election results over time, visit the WA Secretary of State elections web page.

 

Holiday Food and Toy Drive

Bellevue is a generous community and once again, the Bellevue Fire Foundation will be conducting a holiday toy and food drive at local fire stations through December 10th.  New, unwrapped toys will be distributed at the annual Youth Holiday Party at Crossroads Community Center on December 18th.

Monetary donations will be accepted through December 24th and will be used to purchase toys and non-perishable food. Find out which fire stations will accept your donations and additional details regarding the holiday food and toy drive here.

 

Sound Transit Service Changes

Major changes to Sound Transit Regional Express Bus service are planned for March 2019. In particular, the Route 550 which serves many Bellevue residents, will be removed from the DT Seattle Transit Tunnel and will operate on surface streets. Moreover, once the light rail service begins in 2023, all Regional Express trips serving the I-90 corridor will be truncated in Bellevue or on Mercer Island.

In the meantime, you can provide input on the proposed March 2019 service changes in several ways. Sound Transit will be holding a public hearing at 1 PM on November 8th and an open house from 5 – 7 PM, also on November 8th. Both meetings will be held at Union Station, Ruth Fisher Board Room, 401 S. Jackson St, Seattle.

Alternatively, you may provide written comments via e mail at servicechanges@soundtransit.org or via USPS at Service Planning, 401 S. Jackson St, Seattle, WA 98104.

Learn more about the Service Implementation Plan at the Sound Transit service planning web page.

 

 

 

Voter Registration, Ballot Return and Election Results

If you are new to Bellevue or the State of Washington, you may not be certain how to vote. Just a few years ago, our state eliminated polling places and moved to vote by mail only. That means that if you are a registered voter, you should already have received your general election voters’ pamphlet in the mail, with your ballot soon to follow.

If you have not yet registered, you must do so by Monday, October 29th at the King County Elections office in person, via mail or online at the WA Secretary of State’s Office or get more information here.

To learn more about candidates and measures on the ballot and to track local election night results, visit the King County Elections web page. To track statewide election results, visit the WA Secretary of State elections site.

More on Statewide Ballot Measures

As noted in this week’s issue of BizVoice, there are important issues up and down this year’s general election ballot, from US Senator and WA State Supreme Court to legislative races. There are two statewide ballot measures, however, which stand out due to their potential implications for the business community.

After due diligence and deep discussion by the Executive Committee and Board of Directors, the Chamber has taken positions on I-1634, grocery taxation and I-1631, carbon emissions fee.

Initiative 1634 – Keep Groceries Affordable Act (Taxation of Groceries)

Last year, the Seattle City Council voted to impose a sweetened beverage tax of $1.75 per ounce, effective January 1, 2018. The effects were felt immediately by large and small grocers alike, with a 35-cent additional tax on a 20-ounce bottle of soda with sweetener, or $1.75 on s 2-liter bottle. 

Initiative 1634 would amend state law to prevent enaction of any additional taxes on grocery items, defined as raw or processed foods, including sweetened beverages, at the local level. Seattle’s existing ordinance would not be affected.

The Bellevue Chamber believes imposing taxes on the grocery cart at the local level is neither a fair nor reliable way to fund core government programs. We join grocers, food producers and unions representing those who work in these industries, in supporting I-1634, ‘Yes to affordable groceries.”

Initiative 1631 – Protect Washington Act (Carbon Emissions Fee)

Read our news release on Initiative 1631 here

In 2016, Initiative 732 – Create Carbon Emission Tax, was rejected by a vote 59 – 41%. This measure would have implemented a tax of $25 per metric ton in 2018, followed by an escalator of 3.5 % plus inflation, with a cap of $100. At the same time, to reduce costs to businesses and individuals, I-732 proposed reductions in B&O taxes and sales tax relief for low income households.

Initiative 1631 proposes a fee of $15 per metric ton, escalating annually by $2 plus inflation, with a cap in 2035 if state greenhouse gas reduction targets are met. While the ballot title claims the measure will reduce pollution in part by “imposing a fee on large emitters based on their pollution,” so-called Energy Intensive Trade Industries are exempt.

Firms and individuals which are not exempt, however, are projected to see a 14 cent per gallon increase in motor vehicle fuel costs in 2020 and that is just for starters. Unlike I-732, this ballot measure makes no attempt to be revenue neutral and offers no tax offsets. Moreover, I-1631 creates a new, non-elected board to dispense fee revenue as follows:

The Bellevue Chamber strongly supports transition to a clean energy economy and is already leading the way in advocating electrification of the transportation sector. However, we cannot support a punitive carbon fee that will land primarily on small businesses and individuals without an EITE exemption.

Let’s put this measure down and go back to the drawing board in Olympia, proposing new alternative fuel vehicle tax incentives, electrification of public sector transportation fleets and real commute trip reduction options for employers. The Bellevue Chamber joins with the Association of Washington Business in recommending a NO vote on Initiative 1631.

For additional analysis on I-1631, see More on I-1631, from the Bellevue Blitz dated October 10, 2018.

 

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