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Published on Friday, March 22, 2013

Bills impacting city finances get hearings

With last week’s cutoff to get bills out of their house of origin, bills that survived are now being heard in the opposite chamber. Yesterday, two bills with city impacts were heard.

The first bill, HB 1253, maintains the current uses of lodging taxes. The Senate Trade & Economic Development Committee heard testimony at a packed public hearing, and many local government officials testified in favor of this bill. We especially want to thank Terry Harris, Mayor Pro Tem of Chehalis; John Spencer, City Administrator of North Bonneville; and Marfa Scheratski, Business Manager of the Bonneville Hot Springs Resort, for testifying in favor of this bill.

Cities support the removal of the sunset date as contained in HB 1253, which allows the continued funding of special events, festivals, and operations of non-profit tourism-related activities. The lodging and tourism industries want to narrow the definition of “tourist” to a person who stays overnight or travels at least 50 miles, as found in SB 5252, which is something cities cannot support. Given this dynamic, legislators and stakeholders are trying to craft a solution that meets the needs of the all the interests. There are approximately two weeks left before the bill needs to be moved out of committee or will be dead for this year.

The second bill heard, HB 5656, requires cities with business licenses to participate in either the state’s business licensing service or a city-developed licensing portal. AWC and cities testified in opposition of this mandate, and Mayor Vicki Raines of Cosmopolis did a fantastic job of describing why this proposal is unnecessary and premature.

Next week, the House Finance Committee will hear SB 5697, which reduces the frequency of local sales tax changes from four times per year to two. AWC will continue to ask that, if the Legislature chooses to make a change, they instead reduce the frequency to three times per year as specified in the House version of the bill.

We appreciate the efforts of the city officials who have contacted their legislators on these bills. We will continue to keep you updated.

Categories: Budget & finance
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