OLYMPIA — A bill designed to retain and protect the state’s Public Works Assistance Account (PWAA) was signed into law last week by Gov. Jay Inslee.
Rep. Vicki Kraft (R-Vancouver) was one of four lawmakers appointed to a bipartisan group whose goal was to improve the public works projects provisions. The group examined best approaches to financing local government infrastructure projects and recommended several changes. House Bill 1677, introduced during the regular 2017 legislative session, includes the modifications proposed by Kraft and others.
“The Public Works program is an invaluable tool. It helps meet the enormous infrastructure needs of our communities,” said Kraft. “The state plays a big role in supporting these projects with low-interest loans which saves taxpayers money on these efforts. Many of these construction projects are essential to our everyday life. They help keep our water clean, provide electricity and keep our roads safe. This bill is the result of a collaborative effort that will help build our communities for years to come.”
Established in 1985, the PWAA assists in the financing needs of local government infrastructure. These maintenance and improvement projects can be expensive. Projects include roads, bridges, clean drinking water, sewage treatment, public buildings and other facilities that benefit the public.
Many smaller communities need access to low-cost financing and technical assistance to maintain or build these projects. The PWAA provides revolving loans to help with financing. Funding for the program comes primarily from real estate excise taxes, local utility taxes and repayment of previous loans.
Critical changes made by lawmakers in the bill include grants for rural communities and emergency project funding. In addition, the amount of emergency loans increases from 15 percent to 25 percent. The membership of the Public Works Board was also increased from 13 to 17. The board will now have four legislative members, as well as appointments of members with expertise in relevant fields.
Rather than approving a list of specific projects, the Legislature will appropriate funding for public works projects and the board will have greater flexibility in prioritizing those funds for qualifying projects.
“This bill ensures state government is accountable to our citizens by keeping our commitment to provide this low-interest loan opportunity for enhanced local communities,” continued Kraft. “The good news is an already successful program is now even better.”
Information provided by Washington State House Republican Communications, www.houserepublicans.wa.gov .