"'Rural' bill alive, for now"

"A bill that would declare Island County rural and therefore bestow upon it a bushel full of money for economic development is clinging to life in Olympia.County elected officials and business leaders have been hard at work this legislative session promoting House Bill 1628 and its companion, Senate Bill 5082. The Senate version of the bill has already failed to make the cut, but the House bill is alive.Tom Shaughnessy, Island District Economic Development director, said Thursday that HB 1628 has been sent to the Rules Committee, where it and some 20 other bills that have a financial impact on the state will be further studied.The bill provides for designating Island County as a rural county. This would allow the county to keep .08 percent of the sales taxes collected locally that presently goes to state coffers. That amounts to about $400,000 annually which could be spent for economic development purposes.Shaughnessy said that of the state's 39 counties, 30 meet the rural designation criteria, which are based on population density. HB 1628 would also apply the designation to any county smaller than 225 square miles, thereby allowing Island County into the rural category.If Island County were declared rural, the county would get to keep .08 percent of the existing sales taxes for 25 years, so millions of dollars are at stake.County leaders have been pushing the bill in Olympia for several years, and one time it passed both houses only to be vetoed by Gov. Gary Locke.Shaughnessy isn't counting on receiving the money this year, either. I'm not overly optimistic, he said. It would come out of the general fund and this is a very tough year for money down there. "

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