Gig Harbor hospital bill awaits governor’s signature

A pilot financing measure that will help build the new Gig Harbor hospital has cleared both the House and Senate and is now on the way to Gov. Christine Gregoire.

The Senate on Thursday sent House Bill 2670 to Gregoire to be signed into law. The legislation creates a new Local Infrastructure Financing Tool (LIFT) that will help upgrade inadequate roads around the proposed St. Anthony hospital site.

The bill was sponsored by 26th District Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Gig Harbor) and received a 46-2, bipartisan vote in passing the Senate on Thursday.

“Passing this legislation was one of my top priorities in Olympia,” said Kilmer. “The new hospital will bring a projected 450 jobs to our local economy and will help our community invest in the infrastructure needed to move forward without new taxes.”

Kilmer’s bill would allow the city of Gig Harbor to capture a portion of new sales tax revenue coming into the area – money from increased commerce or even from the construction of the new hospital – and finance a bond against these new revenues.

That financing could be used to improve roads and enable the hospital project to move forward.

Sen. Bob Oke (R-Port Orchard) sponsored an identical measure, Senate Bill 6395. The dual effort was to ensure the bill had twice the chance of being approved.

“Maybe it is because I’m sick, but I’m sure gratified that I was able to convince some early opponents here in the Senate to change their minds,” Oke said. “I know my good friend Rep. Kilmer was worried and I’m glad I was able to deliver.”

Oke is currently being treated for a rare form of blood cancer.

Last year the state granted a certificate of need to Franciscan Health Systems to build a new hospital in Gig Harbor. Plans were put on hold when the project did not meet transportation standards under the Growth Management Act.

The measure was supported by Gig Harbor Mayor Chuck Hunter, Gig Harbor City Administrator Mark Hoppen, local seniors and business leaders.

It now goes to the governor to be signed into law.

“This is an incredible victory for residents on our side of the bridge,” said Rep. Patricia Lantz (D—Gig Harbor), a co-sponsor of the bill. “This measure will help us improve local infrastructure without placing an additional burden on taxpayers. This measure will improve local health care, save lives and will add to the long-term health of our region.”

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