For the first time in decades, the state appears ready to commit to providing regular, ongoing support for local government planning requirements. The House and Senate proposals for the Supplemental State Operating Budget both include $10 million of annual, continued funding.

When the state legislature first enacted the Growth Management Act (GMA) over 30 years ago, local governments were promised ongoing resources to help meet the Act’s requirements. The State kept its word, initially, allocating as much as $16 million for local government planning grants in the 1991-93 budget. That $16 million is the equivalent of $33 million today.

However, the state’s commitment to continue providing support dwindled over time.

Budgets over the last decade have included appropriations less than $1 million per year since 2013-15 – promise broken.

Meanwhile, counties have never stopped advocating for funding. Even as new requirements for planning were added and existing requirements expanded, counties reminded the state of their commitment and responsibility. However, we’ve made very little progress restoring state support until now.

But it looks like this year might be different. With virtually identical proposals in both budgets to provide substantial and sorely needed support for local planning, there are strong signals that consistent messaging and sustained efforts may finally pay off.

The funding provided in the budget is primarily utilized as grants for updating and implementing comprehensive plans and development regulations to comply with the GMA. Counties will qualify for grant funding during their required comprehensive plan update cycle. In years when money is left over after the grants to local governments, the remaining funds can be used in two ways:

  • Up to $500,000 per biennium can be used for policy research and development, and to assess the effectiveness of existing policies, or
  • Competitive grants for other planning activities.

Counties will have a say in the research and policy development uses of the funds and in shaping the competitive grants.

This ongoing appropriation will address real needs, including providing reliable resources for local planning and acquiring data through research and assessment to help future policy decision-making.

As we approach the final days of the 2022 Legislative Session, everyone’s focus will narrow and land squarely on shaping the final budgets. While there is still a long path between now and March 10th, and anything can happen, funding support for local government planning is in a strong position.

WSAC will continue to advocate for this funding until the last day.