by Doug Mah, Doug Mah & Associates, Thurston Chamber Public Policy Director
On Thursday, March 10, 2022, the Washington State Legislature conclude their 60-day session. The end of the “short” or mid-biennium session brought significant investments to address Interstate-5 and chronic homelessness – both high priority items for the Thurston Chamber of Commerce and the Thurston Region Shared Legislative Partnership.
Investments totaling $75 million in the State Transportation Budget were appropriated to Interstate 5 and the Nisqually Delta. This is a long-standing problem and project for the region. New funding supports the design, engineering, and right of way phases to replace the Nisqually River bridges and addresses salmon habitat and flood risk issues. Funds will also complete the 507-510 Loop and Roundabouts.
Other investments of more than $850 million in capital and operating funds went to address homelessness across the State. This problem was a shared priority for communities around the State in 2022. New resources support the rapid conversion of property into enhanced emergency shelters, permanent supportive housing, transitional housing, permanent housing, and youth housing. Communities received resources to fund housing projects that move individuals from unsanctioned encampments and public rights-of-way into transitional and more permanent housing options. Investments are also made in the Housing Trust Fund for the production and preservation of affordable housing units serving low-income and special needs populations along with essential wrap-around services for those experiencing homelessness.
Locally, $200,000 in new resources were received to support the Craft Brewing and Distilling: Business Start-up/Accelerator Space in the rapidly growing Craft District in Tumwater. State funds will help offset the initial cost for short-term start up space and business accelerator support for South Puget Sound Community College students and entrepreneurs to successfully launch businesses into the rapidly the growing commercial craft beverage industry.
Each year, the Public Policy Division of the Thurston Chamber convenes the Shared Legislative Partnership. The Partnership works to advance regional priorities during the Legislative session. These priorities, when approved, provide multiple and broad benefits to the entire region due to the significant scope and impact across and between entities.
The Chamber is pleased to work with South Puget Sound Community College, the Cities of Olympia, Lacey, Tumwater, Yelm, and Thurston County, the Port of Olympia, the Thurston County Economic Development Council, and Thurston Regional Planning Council to address the needs of our region.