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STATE | True to her word, Angel supports solution to fund homeless housing
OLYMPIA — On the 2014 legislative session's final day, Sen. Jan Angel’s measure to extend funding for homeless housing was approved by the Senate and House on March 13.
The $40 document tax that funds local homeless-housing assistance was created in 2005 to provide temporary assistance and it is supposed to expire next year.
In late February, Angel, co-chair of the Senate Financial Institutions, Housing and Insurance (FIHI) Committee, sidelined an earlier funding proposal and began crafting a replacement.
Although the Senate minority and others quickly jumped to conclusions about the move, Angel said her intent all along was simply to find a good solution that would promote oversight and accountability while attracting broad legislative support.
Sen. Don Benton, vice co-chair of the FIHI committee, said Angel’s bill actually improves upon the previous House proposal because it adds a layer of sound government oversight and accountability.
“I commend Senator Angel for her commitment to find a good solution to this important issue,” said Benton (R-Vancouver). “She stayed true to her word and demonstrated real leadership; I am pleased that we could come together as a team to pass a measure that will help end homelessness in our state.”
Angel said she was close to homelessness herself and remembers the fear and helplessness.
“Regardless of what others implied, I would never want to take warm beds away from those who need them, and my goal was always to work towards the best legislation possible,” said Angel (R-Port Orchard)
To reach that goal, Angel was focused on three main things when crafting her bill: an audit, a task force, and a surcharge extension.
Her measure would require a neutral third-party performance audit to see how the funds are truly being used and to help establish accountability and oversight.
Additionally, the bill would require the state Department of Commerce to convene a task force of stakeholders to discuss long-term funding options.
Lastly, Angel’s measure would extend the $40 temporary tax until 2019 to buy time for the audit to take place and for the task force to examine the data and submit recommendations to the Legislature.
“We must have good data in order to come to good solutions,” Angel said. “That’s why an audit was non-negotiable. As state leaders we should be accountable for how the taxpayers’ dollars are being spent and we can’t do that unless we put the proper systems in place.”
With strong bipartisan support, the Senate approved Senate Bill 5875 with a 41-8 vote and the state House voted 74-22 in favor of Angel’s measure.