House approves Kilmer’s LIFT measure

A pilot financing tool designed to fund infrastructure improvements in cities and counties throughout the state cleared the House Finance Committee on Wednesday.

Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Gig Harbor), sponsored the bill that would allow work to continue on the new Gig Harbor hospital by creating a new Local Infrastructure Financing Tool (LIFT) to upgrade inadequate roads around the proposed hospital site.

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, however, when the project did not meet transportation standards under the Growth Management Act.

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.

“The hospital is a great investment for our community,” said Kilmer. “It will bring a projected 450 jobs to our local economy and will save countless lives without raising taxes.”

The LIFT could soon become a tool for municipalities all over the state.

The city of Port Orchard has been inundated with requests for infrastructure upgrades in residential areas over the past few years, but Mayor Kim Abel said the measure would not work well for the city’s specific infrastructure needs.

“I think it could work in some areas in Port Orchard,” Abel said, “but it would probably be more useful in an area where revenue could be generated as a result of the improvements. It might not be the perfect mechanism for repairing residential roads.”

According to Abel, there are really only three ways residential roads can be improved — through city funding, as part of the requirements of new development and though a Local Improvement District (LID), by which residents foot the bill.

However, Abel said the LIFT could be valuable to South Kitsap as a whole by providing another funding option for Kitsap County’s development of the Bethel Corridor and the continued development of the Sidney/Sedgewick intersection.

Kilmer said he is excited about the bill’s possibilities in his district.

“This bill gives local governments another tool to help finance infrastructure improvements with no new taxes,” said Kilmer. “It is vital for the safety of our community that we get construction of this hospital underway; we can’t afford to wait.”

The bill is co-sponsored by Rep. Pat Lantz (D—Gig Harbor). Gig Harbor Mayor Chuck Hunter, Gig Harbor City Administrator Mark Hoppen, local seniors, business leaders and others testified in support of the bill.

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