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Published on Monday, June 15, 2015

Legislature in overtime and no immediate end in sight

June 30 is the end of the state’s fiscal year. The following day, if the legislature has not adopted an operating budget, state government will partially shut down. What can you do to help legislators finish on time without damaging cities? What could it mean for cities if there’s no agreement by July 1?

What you can do to help legislators wrap up without hurting the success of cities:

  • Most legislators will be home for the early part of this week. Track yours down and share tips on how you’ve found common ground on tough issues at city hall. Compromise is never easy, but they have experience with tough conversations in Olympia.
  • While you have their attention, remember that most of them aren’t negotiating budgets and will be asked to vote for what their leaders present at the last minute. It’s your last chance to remind them of your priorities so they can be ready to tell their negotiators – “if you want my vote on the budget, don’t mess with the success of cities!”
  • Remind them that the key reason they have $3 billion more to spend than the last biennium is because the economies of several cities are pumping out revenue from expanded businesses, new construction, and increased home sales. Keeping that engine running takes investment in services and infrastructure, not just schools.
  • This recovery is uneven. Many cities aren’t feeling the boom, but must still provide services and improve infrastructure. Helping them is important.
  • Now is not the time to cut back support to our economic engines or to communities where most people live, learn, work, and play. Continue shared revenues. Don’t divert revenues away from programs that build cities and support public safety. Adopt a transportation package that will relieve congestion, foster movement of freight, and give cities of all sizes some new tools to fix and maintain our infrastructure.

With 13 days left, we remain optimistic that the Legislature will pass a state operating budget and avoid a partial government shutdown.

If they fail to reach an agreement, what does it mean for cities?

A government shutdown has never occurred in Washington State, so nobody knows the precise impacts, and much depends on how long a state government shutdown lasts. We know that most revenues distributed to cities from the state, such as sales tax and liquor revenue, are not scheduled to go out until the end of July. According to the state’s updated contingency plan, the Department of Revenue is planning to have a skeleton crew working to receive tax returns, make deposits, and ensure revenues are distributed to local governments. The State Treasurer will continue to operate the Local Government Investment Pool. The State Auditor will continue conducting local government audits. We also know that some state services that are intertwined with cities, such as state business licensing, will not operate in the event of a partial shutdown.

Other impacts are less clear. What happens with state grants and contracts will depend on the type of funding and which state agency administers it. We know cities have already received notice that some grants will be suspended on July 1 absent a state budget. Cities concerned about specific grants should contact the administering agency.

Again, legislators are under significant pressure to reach a deal by the end of the month, and we remain hopeful they will. Look for an update in our Legislative Bulletin again on June 22.