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Published on Friday, February 17, 2017

What 350+ city officials heard in Olympia

During gatherings both on and off the Capitol campus, officials from 114 cities and towns heard some promising and not so promising news. Governor Inslee and numerous legislators from both parties and chambers shared their perspectives on what they consider key issues and their views on AWC’s priorities. The conversations were cordial, respectful, and frank.

  

There was general consensus that:

  • Little, if anything, gets settled unless they can reach agreement on adequately funding K-12 education;
  • Efforts to modernize the Public Records Act are headed in the right direction and as negotiations continue, legislation should keep moving forward;
  • Finding new ways to help fund local infrastructure remains critically important, but how to fund it continues to be a problem;
  • More housing is needed for a growing population and in particular, for those on our streets;
  • Mental health services need better focus and more funding; and
  • Elected officials at the local level are best situated to address local needs, but not all the right tools and resources are available to do so.

  

Less promising was any sense that the Governor and majorities in the House and Senate are close to agreement on key operating and capital budget decisions. Getting to an agreement on these is key to making many of the other decisions noted above.

Now at the beginning of the 7th week of a 15-week session, it’s not abnormal for leaders to establish starting positions on how much revenue is needed and for what. While the Governor was first out with a budget in late 2016 (as required by law), it’s now the Senate’s turn to release their budget.  They are now constructing proposed operating and capital budgets that are unlikely to come out before the next scheduled state revenue forecast on March 16.

Attendees at our City Action Days clearly heard that the Senate budget is unlikely to include any new revenue while proposing cuts to city-shared revenues and services. Leadership in the House majority shared that their budget ideas require new revenues and most likely won’t include cuts to revenues and services that cities support and rely on. Where this all ends up by session’s end is unclear.

What is clear is that, on the policy front, many of the issues AWC is working on are moving along. Having 350+ officials in town meeting and talking about these issues with their legislators was extremely helpful and much appreciated. It’s also clear that continuing to advocate not only for policy bills, but for what’s needed in the budgets to keep cities strong, is something only a strong chorus of voices from home can help us achieve.

Check out and download the full photo recap of the event here.

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