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Published on Friday, April 12, 2013

The cards have finally been dealt

Both the public and behind-the-scenes debates and negotiations over the state’s fiscal year 2013-2015 budget have begun in earnest. The Senate passed a two-year budget of $33.2 billion and the House is poised to pass its version at $34.5 billion. In addition, the Governor has laid out his fiscal roadmap which is close to, but not the same as, the House budget.

Choices made soon will have significant impacts on how students are educated and the business climate helped or hindered. We likely won’t know whether there will be any new transportation revenue or more local transportation revenue options until legislators get closer to an operating budget agreement. Similarly, until decisions are made on how revenues are allocated, we won’t know the size and scope of the capital budget, or the future of various grant and loan funding streams important to many communities.

What we do know now is that the collective voices of cities have been heard and for that we gratefully thank you! So far, neither the Senate, House, nor Governor have proposed further reductions in direct shared revenues with cities beyond the Senate’s halving of liquor tax distributions. And their approaches to expenditures for most other programs of importance to cities are similar, as outlined in our comparison of budget proposals.

However, this isn’t the time to assume cuts or damaging program changes aren’t still possible to areas of importance to cities. Key legislators and the Inslee administration need to find common ground – they likely will compromise by funding fewer things than the House wants and more than the Senate has proposed. To reach an agreement, either new revenue is needed or more cuts are required. They’ll be scrubbing budgets line-by-line looking for items to help them reach a conclusion – not likely by the end of the regular session on Sunday, April 28, but not impossible either.

Your legislative team in Olympia thanks you for communicating with your legislators and urges you to keep it up. Whether you prefer the Senate’s, or the House’s, or Governor’s budget priorities and approach, please keep letting them know the importance of shared revenues, services, and infrastructure needed to keep your communities vital.