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Published on Monday, June 22, 2015

Make or break week for state budget and city priorities

Today marks 160 days of what was supposed to be a 105-day session. It’s also the last full week for legislators and the Governor to reach an agreement on the operating budget and other important matters, like adopting a transportation package. We’ll also soon know where city priorities stand among their collective priorities.

Governor Inslee said last week that majorities in both the Senate and House want to fund new things. Democrats have stated all session long that additional revenues are needed to fund what they and Republicans all want. Republicans haven’t yet agreed on that need but have consistently promoted the need for new transportation revenues to address long-term mobility improvements. Democrats generally agree, but first insist on finding agreement on the operating budget. The most reliable reports from negotiations behind closed doors say they are within a few hundred million dollars of reaching agreement.

AWC has worked all session long to remind legislators of the historic support cities have received to help preserve public safety, build infrastructure, promote economic development, and maintain quality communities. These support levels have declined over the last two decades. We have reminded them not to take fiscally healthy cities for granted, because without them, the revenue they need to meet their priorities won’t be assured.

Our messages have been getting through, in large part because you have been talking to them. We’ve seen and heard the results of your voices. There are legislative champions advocating for continued and enhanced support for cities within each of the four caucuses. They’re competing with champions for other issues and causes, such as protecting the social services safety net, boosting funding for K-12 education (as ordered by the Supreme Court), and helping make college more affordable.

Finally this week we’ll learn where we stand on these questions:
  • Will the Senate majority support the House majority’s proposal to restore $25 million of diverted liquor taxes used to support city public safety? 
  • Will the Senate majority drop their proposal to sweep and reallocate more than $9 million of the Fire Insurance Premium Tax used by 44 cities to help pay for LEOFF 1 and pre-LEOFF retirement and survivor benefits? 
  • Will both chambers fund Public Works Trust Fund projects and ensure continuation of a reliable and sustainable local infrastructure program into the future? 
  • Will Democrats join Republicans and refuse to adjourn without passing a transportation package that funds critical mobility projects and provides new local option funding authorities? 
  • And finally, will they pass legislation that commits to sharing marijuana taxes with cities and what’s left in SHB 2156 that provides some fiscal and policy help to cities? 

Close to 500 city officials will be gathering in Wenatchee this week for AWC’s Annual Conference. They’ll be asked to make a final connection with their legislators to attain positive outcomes from items noted above, as well as making sure no sweeps are made on the shared revenues that we consider most at risk (see here for the list, or here for an interactive map). We ask you again – and hopefully for the last time – to make that call by no later than mid-week, when we expect legislators to return to Olympia and stay until the curtain comes down on the 2015 session. Your voices echoing ours in Olympia have made a difference so far – help keep our message strong!