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Welcome to AWC’s online library of Legislative Bulletin and CityVoice news articles and other updates.

Published on Friday, April 5, 2013

AWC priority updates as April 28 adjournment deadline nears

Coming into the legislative session, we knew the focus would be on state budget issues and how to reconcile the competing views of different philosophical factions in the House and Senate and those of a new Governor. As the clock ticks down to the end of the session and budget proposals are finally emerging, here’s a snapshot of where we stand.

Operating budget/city impacts

  • Governor Inslee revealed his budget priorities in some detail last week. As far as AWC’s priorities are concerned, he thankfully hasn’t proposed reductions in any revenues shared with cities, but does divert to the state general fund (for the biennium) a portion of revenue supporting the Public Works Trust Fund account. He seeks to fund his priorities by eliminating several business tax exemptions and extending those set to expire this year.
  • As reported in the April 4 edition of CityVoice, the Senate considered and passed the evening of April 5 its much-anticipated operating budget. The Senate budget includes $20 million in reductions of city-shared liquor revenues, which are diverted to the state general fund. There was an amendment to remove this diversion, but it failed on a partisan vote. It also includes the permanent diversion of some important funds for local capital programs. It does not include reductions in other shared revenues with cities and does not include revenue enhancements other than extending a hospital safety net tax by six years.
  • The House Republicans released a partial budget proposal a few weeks ago indicating how they would fund education. It included the diversion of local sales-tax-streamlining mitigation funds used to offset changes made several years ago in how sales taxes are collected. Their proposal didn’t include an overall operating budget, so it’s not yet clear where they stand on AWC priorities like continued shared liquor revenues and maintenance of important infrastructure funding programs.
  • House Democrats have been working on their budget proposal and priorities, but have been awaiting action in the Senate before they unveil their plans. We expect something to emerge from House Democrats mid next week.
  • There’s some doubt that the Legislature will be able to come to agreement on the budget in time to meet the end-of-session deadline of April 28. That could lead to a special session(s) that would keep lawmakers in Olympia longer. Here’s a thoughtful analysis by Crosscut on the challenges inherent to our state budget development process.

Transportation budget/revenue package

  • Both the House and Senate Transportation Committees have released their proposed budgets – both of which maintain current programs (such as the Transportation Improvement Board) and continue funding for current projects, but don’t fund new ones.
  • Governor Inslee strongly supports passage of a new transportation revenue package this year that includes funding for state and local governments. House Democrats floated a package earlier this session and a scaled-down version may be revealed as early as next week. Senate Transportation leaders continue discussions with interested parties, including cities. There’s a recognition that local governments need revenue options; our systems are deteriorating; and in some places, transit funding options are sorely needed. Whether action will be taken this year on a transportation revenue package remains highly uncertain.

Policy issues

  • We continue to work to ensure current local revenue authorities are preserved. Potential changes to how cities manage local business licensing remain under consideration as the House ponders whether to keep ESSB 5656 moving along. AWC opposes this bill which mandates that our 220+ cities issuing business licenses do so through a central portal.
  • We’ve been successful in finding a resolution of differences to extend the flexible use of local lodging taxes ESHB 1253. Kudos to those involved and special thanks to both Rep. Larry Springer (D-Kirkland) and Sen. John Braun (R-Centralia) for their efforts.
  • We remain hopeful about the passage of at least one cost-savings bill (ESB 5099), clarifying how cities respond to a mandate to use alternative fuel sources in your fleets. It passed overwhelmingly in the Senate, was modified slightly in the House (AWC still strongly supports it), and once acted upon there, should be agreed to by the Senate and sent to the Governor.
  • Unfortunately, our coalition of public entities failed in efforts to modestly address ways to curb abusive public records requests (SHB 1128). We’re now hoping for some legislative direction requiring opposing interests to work constructively towards a solution over the summer and fall.
  • The Senate wisely chose not to advance a bill that would have significantly changed how cities annex lands (SSB 5013), and the House never considered such a proposal. We continue to monitor possible attempts to resurface this bill.
  • In cities that receive water from other than a city-owned utility, there is hope for clarification of how to pay for fire hydrants as both House (SHB 1512) and Senate (SB 5606) bills continue to move forward.

We appreciate your attention to the important Action Alerts we send asking you to contact your legislators. We have seen the difference those contacts can make and forewarn you that you’ll likely see a few more as the budget debate intensifies. Now would be the time to contact your House members with issues or concerns as that chamber prepares to view and debate a budget later in the week.

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