Olympia board agrees to consider long-term climate finance

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The Fourth Avenue Bridge overlooking downtown Olympia.

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The city of Olympia has made it clear that climate change is at the center of its concerns. Earlier this month, council members discussed legislative support in their fight against climate change as a top priority for the next year.

But after recently attending a youth climate panel, council member Lisa Parshley’s sense of urgency about the climate crisis has grown. And on September 20, she proposed that the council request a dedicated revenue stream to tackle long-term climate change.

Parshley said the city needs a longer-term plan and asked the city’s climate program manager to outline the staffing and funding needed for pilot studies, available grants, opportunities for community work, etc She said there is a lot of work going on for research and the fight against climate change, but there is no dedicated and stable source of funding for it.

“Currently, there is not enough budget capacity to fully fund our declared climate emergency, as much of the available general fund, year-end one-time funds and capital budget has been dedicated to our emergency. declared for homelessness, working on our housing crisis, work on reinventing public safety and the necessary work on diversity and equity,” Parshley read from his reference.

Council has referred Parshley’s proposal to the city’s finance committee and city staff, who have been tasked with drafting a report by the end of the second quarter of 2023. Their work will include a plan for financing the climate action for the next 5 years. The ultimate goal would be to have a recommended action plan by the first quarter of 2024.

“We really don’t have a lot of time to wait for that,” Parshley said. “I really don’t want it to take more than a year.”

From there, staff will assess state law for the possibility of an excise, property, or sales tax devoted to climate action. If none exists, they plan to develop and draft legislation for it, in hopes that it will be sponsored by representatives of the 22nd Legislative District in 2024.

Councilman Jim Cooper said the city needs to step up its climate change efforts in the 2023 legislative session to show it’s serious. He asked Parshley if there were other cities pushing for legislative support in this way that they could partner with, but she said she wasn’t aware of any others who were suing him. currently.

Parshley told The Olympian that Bellingham started something similar but gave it up. Bellingham was considering a tax to tackle climate change, but the mayor put the proposal on hold.

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