Tax deferral tops Port of Walla Walla's legislative agenda

The Port of Walla Walla will lay out its 11 legislative priorities for 2011 at a meeting Tuesday.

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WALLA WALLA -- The Port of Walla Walla will share its list of 11 legislative priorities outlined for 2011 when it meets Tuesday with elected officials from the 16th District.

The meeting begins at 4 p.m. at the Port's administrative office, 310 A St.

Port officials say one of their biggest wishes for next year is that the state will redefine the eligibility for its sales/use tax deferral program.

In years past the state program granted a deferral of the sales/use tax on construction and equipment costs for manufacturing, as well as computer-related businesses, research and development laboratories and commercial testing facilities locating to rural counties. It helped provide a much-needed incentive for recruiting certain types of businesses to communities throughout the Walla Walla Valley, Port officials have said.

However, during the 2010 legislative session, the qualifications for the deferral program were changed, and based on the changes Walla Walla and the surrounding communities no longer qualify, officials say.

Port officials want to see the defining qualifications changed back or amended so that the community can again receive the incentive.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

Making a list

Among the Port of Walla Walla's legislative priorities for 2011:

  • Port officials want port districts to be included as "municipal providers" of water.

  • Retention of the Economic Development Sales Tax Fund designed to return nine-tenths of 1 percent of state sales tax generated locally to Walla Walla County.

  • Establish a permanent funding for the Community Economic Revitalization Board, which has helped finance public infrastructure to encourage new development and expansion. Port officials also want a medium wage requirement of $14.78 removed as a guideline for receiving funds. Officials say if that requirement had been in place when the Port was recruiting Railex in Wallula, the project would not have received needed funding.

  • Retention of jobs at the Washington State Penitentiary. An estimated $44 million in construction funds will be needed to build a new medium-security and close-custody facility.

  • Securing funding for Phase 7A of the U.S. Highway 12 expansion.

  • Establishment of a prevailing-wage threshold for small public works projects of $25,000 or less.

  • Opposition of expanding prevailing-wage requirements to private-sector businesses that lease or purchase property from ports.

  • An update to the state gas tax distribution formula to include distributions for roads owned by port districts. The current distribution formula is for cities and counties only.

  • Opposition to $24 million in proposed new charges from the Department of Ecology on water right holders and applicants.

  • Support for the proposed 80-120-bed state veterans home on the Jonathan M. Wainwright Memorial Veterans Affairs Medical Center campus, which would provide long-term care for indigent veterans.

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