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Published on Monday, June 8, 2015

Deal on overall spending level reportedly reached. What does that mean for city priorities?

On day 146 of what was supposed to be a 105-day session deal-makers in Olympia are trying to decide early this week which things to fund, or not, in the operating budget. There’s reportedly less to spend than House Democrats wanted, so even though city fiscal priorities came out well in their proposed budget, they’re all back on the table and may end up on the cutting room floor.

Take a look below at what we know and what’s at risk. If ever there was a time to pick up the phone and ask your legislators to support city priorities, this is the week!

  • Senate Republicans allocate some of the liquor taxes ($20 million) and all of the Fire Insurance Premium Tax ($9 million) previously shared with cities to other state priorities. House Democrats have (so far) maintained that cities should get as much as we used to get. Neither the House nor Senate appear willing to gradually lift the cap on the growth of shared liquor profits, something we had hoped might be possible this session up until late last week.
  • Senate Republicans signaled at the end of the first special session they are willing to divert less of the loan repayments from the Public Works Trust fund than originally proposed ($100 million instead of $200 million). It’s unknown whether they’ll agree with House Democrats who want no diversions. As described more fully here, both the House and Senate propose funding projects, but in different ways.
  • It appears there’s agreement on the Legislature finishing their work on how to spend legal marijuana tax revenues. We hear cities with recreational retail stores will get a small share of these revenues ($12 million) for the next two years. After that, more revenues will be shared and will include cities with growers, processors and even those that don’t ban, but don’t have any of these businesses.
  • Those legislators working on a transportation package continue to make progress on the details and hope remains that a package will pass. A major unknown is how they’ll resolve differences on use of the sales taxes generated by construction projects.
  • Finally, we have a couple of other policy issues we’re hoping they’ll find time to address before they leave, such as HB 2156, which provides some helpful tools. Whether there’s the time and energy to act on bills like this isn’t clear.

We’re encouraged by signals that legislators and the Governor are having constructive conversations. We’re anxious for them to conclude their work, and even more anxious they’ll do so without further retreating from support of programs and revenues that help cities operate. To guard against that happening, and on the advice of several of our Champions in the Legislature, pick up the phone now and connect with your legislators and remind them of your needs. They will listen more to those they directly represent than those of us here in Olympia.