OLYMPIA — The Chelan Douglas Regional Port Authority received word that its list of asks from the state legislature were almost entirely met during the 2023 105-day legislative session at Tuesday’s board meeting.
The legislative session wrapped up with “nearly every legislative priority accomplished” for the port, said Blake Baldwin, Lodestar Partners senior associate.
More from 2023 legislative session
Lodestar Partners, government affairs firm, was hired by the port in October 2022 under a $72,000 contract to push the port’s legislative agenda in Olympia during the session.
Despite being a “tight budget year,” both the state’s operating and capital budget included earmarked priorities for the port, according to Baldwin. Specifically in the capital budget, backtracked on a $3 million request and put out an official $1.5 million request for hangar site infrastructure for Airlift Northwest, an intensive medical care air ambulance service, at Pangborn Memorial Airport. The final capital budget included $500,000 for Airlift Northwest hangar project infrastructure.
“How are these essential public services, how are they viewed at the legislature in terms of funding these things?” asked commissioner Donn Etherington. “The services these guys provide are just critically important for North Central Washington. Without it, we’ve got some real problems.”
Baldwin considered this a “starting point for the state’s investment,” and added that Rep. Mike Steele, was “really communicative and really good at managing expectations with tight budget.” Steele encouraged the port and Airlift Northwest to explore alternative funding, like through the Washington state treasurer’s program, Certificate of Participation.
“I’m hoping we’ll get another bite of the apple and get some construc-
tion going; that’s our hope,” Jim Kuntz, port CEO said.
The Lake Chelan Airport water line extension project was an ask from the city of Chelan, backed by the port because “it’s a driver of economic development,” and was met by the capital budget. According to Baldwin, the legislature intends to fund the project, but in a tight budget year didn’t appropriate “hard dollars.”
“While there is not funding identified, the legislature did include specific language that did outline their intent to prorate the remaining cost in fiscal year 2024… how I read this, city of Chelan tell us how much this is going to be and spend the dollars and we look to reimburse,” Baldwin said.
The state’s operating budget didn’t come with a direct appropriation for the port, however a state commerce $1 million grant for the port’s incubator project, the Trades District was re-appropriated.
According to Baldwin, the Washington state Department of Commerce circled back to the legislature for a re-appropriation for a bucket of funds, including the small business innovation grant the port previously received that came with an expiration date that couldn’t be met.
Three bills that run port adjacent — including Sen. Brad Hawkins’ public facilities district legislation for a potential regional sports complex and a clarification to a tax increment financing bill to allow for land acquisition — made it through the session to Gov. Jay Inslee’s desk. Rep. Keith Goehner put forward House Bill 1663, which “allows functionally consolidated port districts to adopt a unify (property) tax levy among those two port districts,” through a cumulative vote from both counties, Baldwin said.
“So it was really, written specifically for the regional port authority, but as other port districts might take the example you led with and perhaps functionally consolidate, this is now state statute for them to utilize,” Baldwin said. “Puts that decision in the hands of the people who are most affected by the inequities of the current levy rate.”