Is Subsidized Parking Illegal?!?

Parking at the University of Washington during the course of your Residency and/or Fellowship costs thousands of dollars. For the past several years, whenever Residents requested discounted parking, the University responded that they could not provide discounted or cost neutral parking by state law. This myth has persisted for years; however, after review by our legal team, it is important to make the precedent clear.  
The UW Parking Policies ( stipulate that "Transportation Services may waive the fee associated with the above complimentary parking or recharge the fee to the appropriate University department in accordance with current department business procedures.” "Nothing in this section allows a University employee to receive, or attempt to receive, any benefit associated with his or her personal transportation expenses in violation of the State Ethics Act."
Cost neutral parking is thus permitted by the University’s own policies as long as it does not violate the State Ethics Act. This Act is designed to prevent state employees from receiving gifts that might influence their actions. However, in Section 1 of the Act, it is clear that subsidized or cost neutral parking does not fall under the definition of a “gift.” Per the Washington State Ethics Act (RCW 42.52.010 section 1 - Definitions.):
(9) "Gift" means anything of economic value for which no consideration is given. "Gift" does not include:
     (i) Discounts available to an individual as a member of an employee group, occupation, or similar broad-based group; and…
When the UWHA Negotiation Team presented our ideas in March 2015 for easing the burden of parking, such as cost neutral parking, reduced rates (i.e. early bird specials), incentives for biking or using public transportation, and free UPASS’s for Residents who drive < 20% per quarter, we also presented this issue to the University.  Unfortunately, the University continues to perpetuate this falsehood and thus continue to deny our Residents a benefit that is provided at almost 90% of other programs, which ignores our already below average salaries in this relatively expensive city.  Either way, subsidized parking for Residents (and other employees) is legal and permitted.  Please continue to stay informed and we appreciate your support.