January 11, 2024

WEDA sets 2024 legislative priorities

The Washington State Legislature’s 2024 session convened Jan. 8, and the Washington Economic Development Association (WEDA) is on the ground working to empower communities across the state.

WEDA is the state’s only trade association wholly focused on economic development. Its more than 170 members include the EDB and other Associate Economic Development Organizations (ADOs), along with cities, counties, ports, tribes, businesses, education/workforce development and community-based organizations that make economic development a priority.

Continued focus on resilience and economic vitality

WEDA’s 2024 Legislative Agenda was recently finalized following the release of Gov. Inslee’s 2024 supplemental operating, capital and transportations budgets. (The proposed budget of $71 billion boosts state spending by nearly $2.5 billion.) The association’s top legislative priorities for this session are to:

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

“While job growth has improved, many communities, employers and families across the state are still struggling, and employers face major challenges recruiting and retaining talent,” WEDA Executive Director Suzanne Dale Estey said. “Building economic vitality and resilience across all of Washington will continue to take intentional work, strategic partnerships and smart investment.”

EDB priorities rise to the top

“The EDB stands behind WEDA’s 2024 legislative priorities, all of which are important for economic development across the state,” EDB President Bruce Kendall,” said. “Seven of those requests are particularly critical for the EDB.”

Those include support for:

    • State-level leadership and funding for economic development, including business recruitment, retention and expansion, and innovation programs.
    • Increased funding for regional capacity to coordinate and deliver economic development services through a new and ongoing $5 million (annual) ADO Innovation, Sustainability, Partnerships and Equity Fund. Proposed by the Washington State Department of Commerce, this funding would catalyze ADO initiatives that foster innovation, partnerships and equity, and would provide critical and much-needed support to these organizations.
    • Local property tax exemptions for manufacturing projects.
    • Broadband capacity initiatives and investment.

The EDB also backs protection of the:

    • Economic Development Strategic Reserve Fund for state economic development program expenditures.
    • .09 percent sales and use tax for public facilities and economic development in rural counties. This tool helps build critical infrastructure, attract new industry, diversify economies, and create and retain new jobs.
    • New Diversity, Equity and Inclusion investments to ensure that historically disadvantaged businesses have an equal opportunity to achieve economic prosperity.

Big boost from Commerce

Ahead of release of the proposed budget, the Washington State Department of Commerce submitted a significant package of economic development funding requests to the governor’s office, including decision packages around ADO funding, a small business disaster fund, innovation funding, housing and several others. That package remained essentially unchanged in the budget, which also included additional economic development investments, including funding for the Innovation Cluster Accelerator Program and significant clean energy/clean economy investments.

“WEDA’s colleagues and partners at Commerce have been listening to and partnering with WEDA and many of our members and ‘thinking big’ about our important work,” Dale Estey said.

For more information about the DOC package, visit abr.ofm.wa.gov. Select “2024 Supplemental” then “Department of Commerce/Econ Development and Competitiveness” then click “Search.”

Moderate changes expected

This year’s legislative session is a short one, slated to last just 60 days and end on March 8. Based on comments from participants in a recent WEDA legislative roundtable, lawmakers plan to make modest adjustments to the state’s budget during the abbreviated session.

“We have a sound budget right now and don’t see any reason to raise or introduce taxes,” Senate Ways and Means Committee Ranking Member Sen. Lynda Wilson said. “That’s an issue when you’re trying to attract people and businesses to the state.”

“We’re just tweaking what currently exists,” House Appropriations Committee Chair Rep. Timm Ormsby said. “We’re not looking to start any new ambitious programs. We’re the minders of the treasury, and we need to make sure it’s sustainable.”

You can find the full WEDA 2024 Legislative Agenda on the WEDA website.


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