Local governments would be able to improve, expand and add public parks to satisfy historically high demand, under legislation passed by the Senate Housing & Local Government Committee.

“The coronavirus pandemic has reconnected people with the pleasures and enjoyment of outdoor activities,” said Sen. Kevin Van De Wege (D-Sequim), the sponsor of Senate Bill 5006. “People want to get outside and are turning to parks for healthy, safe recreation in greater numbers than ever.”

Van De Wege’s bill would enable local governments to impose a sales-and-use tax, subject to voter approval, to fund the acquisition, construction, improvement and maintenance of parks. The tax could be imposed only within an existing city, county, metropolitan park district, or parks and recreation district boundary.

“Prior to the pandemic, our communities faced a huge gap in parks funding due to budget cuts during the Great Recession,” Van De Wege said. “Since the pandemic, that gap has only gotten worse.

“This is an important local tool that is voter approved and does not cost the state any additional money. Voters at the local level, within each district, would have the ability to control exactly how much they care about parks and how much they want to spend on them.”