May 8, 2024

2024 Legislative Session yields economic development wins

During the 60-day Washington State Legislature Supplemental session that wrapped up March 7, lawmakers tackled some big challenges, from the housing shortage and mental health crisis to climate change. They also acted on additional legislation that will help boost economic development across the state.

WEDA Executive Director Suzanne Dale Estey and WEDA lobbyists Jim Justin and Sheri Nelson were critical players in making that happen – with help from the state’s Associate Economic Development Organizations (ADOs), including the EDB.

“We made great strides on our 2024 Legislative Agenda,” Dale Estey said. “We are grateful for the strong advocacy of our ADOs and greatly appreciate their active engagement and continued commitment to WEDA and our important work growing jobs and increasing economic vitality across Washington.”

Priorities accomplished

WEDA’s highest legislative priorities this year were to:

  1. Strengthen the economic development ecosystem.
  2. Foster catalysts for job recovery and growth.
  3. Increase prosperity for all of Washington.

WEDA accomplished or made progress on all of its top priorities. Here are some notable budget highlights:

  • $8.5 million for the Governor’s Strategic Reserve Fund. Expenditure authority was increased in the Economic Development Strategic Reserve Account to support projects intended to prevent the closure or relocation of a business or facility in the state.
  • $5 million for ADO funding. This includes current-maintenance level funding plus a new annual and ongoing investment of $696,000. The “good news” is that the overall program level has been increased for the next biennium and there is a precedent of increasing funding on which to build. However, the legislation does not meet the serious funding need of the state’s ADOs.
  • $1 million for ICAP funding to continue the Innovation Cluster Accelerator Program (ICAP) beginning on Jan. 1, 2025. Funding must be used to support innovation clusters in clean energy sectors.
  • $50 million for broadband investment to help ensure more Washington families have access to affordable, reliable high-speed broadband.
  • $1 million for tourism grants to statewide or local destination marketing organizations for activities to promote tourism in Washington. That includes (but is not limited to) promoting tourism related to the 2026 FIFA world cup.
  • $500,000 in local communities/federal funding for technical assistance for local communities in applying for federal funding.
  • $21.45 million for green jobs and infrastructure grants.

WEDA advocacy also helped protect previous legislation critical to economic development. Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is a financing tool that local governments in Washington can use to fund public infrastructure in targeted areas to encourage private development and investment. WEDA worked with the Association of Washington Cities (AWC) and other partners to successfully amend two previously “bad” bills that would have seriously harmed the Tax Increment Financing, TIF for Jobs programs that WEDA and many of its members, including the EDB, worked hard to support in 2021.

You can find more information on bill action for the 2024 legislative session here; budget details are available here.

The next Legislative Session is scheduled to convene on Jan. 13, 2025.


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