After the Vancouver City Council reviewed its federal legislative successes and agenda last week, optimism remained high.
The Interstate 5 Bridge Replacement project persists as a high legislative priority, with regional leaders eyeing competitive federal grants to apply to the development. However, the city of Vancouver remains an advocate for these initiatives rather than an applicant.
Instead, Vancouver is seeking large investments for various projects throughout the city that may otherwise sit in the shadow of discussions surrounding the bridge. Among them, select projects address neighborhood equity and access.
So, what are some priorities for 2023?
David Hodges, vice president of consultant group CFM Advocates, said during a briefing Monday that the city will again attempt to secure $5 million to reduce air pollution in the Fruit Valley neighborhood, one of Vancouver’s most impoverished communities, through its 32nd Avenue Extension project. Specifically, the plan will create a new freight arterial to relieve congestion near the Port of Vancouver and other industrial areas.
Three priority items totaling $1.3 million are being sought for the Vancouver Fire Department, funding the replacement of monitor and defibrillator devices, as well as fire officer and hazardous materials training. The department also wants funding for Project Home Safe, a campaign to educate residents on fire prevention.
Hodges said the Fourth Plain corridor could experience a massive upgrade, as Vancouver is anticipated to receive about $5.14 million to invest in its transportation and pedestrian infrastructure — a goal being to improve the international district’s exterior through these projects.
The city is also seeking federal support for its Heights District, wastewater and environmental upgrades, and affordable housing and homeless assistance.
Vancouver has accrued more than $28.69 million total in federal earmarks and grants since 2008.
Congressionally directed spending, or earmarks, arrived in 2021 after a decade-long prohibition and contributed to many successes in Vancouver. Earmarks are one way for congressional members to deliver directly for their district and states, said Joel Rubin, a CFM Advocates federal lobbyist.
Confidence for further successes should persist, Rubin said, with the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, as it created multiple grant opportunities and rebate programs, most notably to address climate change.
“It’s really exciting because you all are kind of ahead of the curve in setting your greenhouse gas emission goals and climate change goals that you’re going to be able to take advantage of some of these programs because you’re out in front,” Rubin said.
Rubin illustrated the 118th Congress’ new composition on Jan. 3, as it can influence future legislative achievements. The House shifted from Democratic to Republican control with a slim majority, whereas Democrats will hold the majority in the Senate, giving the party committee control, a greater likelihood of passing bills and reduced procedural challenges.
“This has huge implications on the Senate for the coming years,” he said.
In looking ahead to 2023, Hodges predicted there will be increased congressional oversight, as well as a greater federal emphasis on border security and crime.
Pushes for policy
Rubin detailed the city’s support to restore a state and local tax deduction, which would allow state residents to fully deduct a sales tax on their federal filings. Due to the success of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017, this deduction was capped at $10,000.
“(We want to) make sure that there is some fairness when it comes to not being taxed twice on your federal taxes,” he said.
The city is also lobbying for the refinancing of municipal bonds, also removed in the 2017 tax bill. Reinstating this provision would allow local governments to refinance debt, which can be directed to various city improvement projects, Rubin said.
In a similar vein, the city opposes legislative initiatives that challenge local government decision-making. According to the city of Vancouver’s agenda briefing, “The partnership with federal policymakers should recognize local government roles and not preempt city authority on issues such as land use, rights of way and other local functions.”
The Vancouver City Council is scheduled to review its state legislative priorities at 4 p.m. Monday during a workshop, which will be broadcast live on CVTV.org.