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Published on Friday, May 31, 2013

Wait, watch, listen and speak: special session issues still need city input

After two weeks of mostly behind-closed-doors meetings among leadership and administration officials, there are few signs of agreement on a state operating budget or transportation revenue package.

Publicly, Senate majority coalition members continue to resist new general fund revenue ideas. House majority democrats haven’t embraced policy bills promoted by those controlling the Senate. It’s all but certain that finding agreement on a final budget for the next two years will require more cuts. That may include cuts to some revenues and programs important to cities -- such as shared liquor taxes and/or infrastructure monies like the Public Works Trust Fund. You can help avoid this by connecting with your legislators to ask that they not make such cuts.

Both chambers continue to work on tougher drunk driving laws for repeat offenders, but neither has yet revealed how extra jail time would be paid for – a major concern for cities and counties.

The damage to the I-5 bridge in the Mt. Vernon/Burlington area has refocused consideration of transportation needs around the state. There continues to be interest in some sort of transportation revenue package. However, it isn’t clear how big, or whether to require voter approval for it to take effect.

As we’ve been sharing, since legislators finished their regular 105-day session we can’t do much to help them reach agreement. However you can help by making sure your legislators know what’s important to you. Please emphasize the importance of:

  1. Not reducing state shared revenues with cities – in particular not enacting the Senate majority coalition’s idea from it’s earlier Senate-only passed budget that reduced shared liquor taxes by $25 million;
  2. Restoring shared liquor revenues and growth in profits shared;
  3. Not imposing new or expanded unfunded mandates; and
  4. Protecting critical infrastructure programs such as the Public Works Trust Fund.

On May 29, Senator Mike Carrell (R-Lakewood) passed away after an illness that caused him to leave for medical treatment part way through the regular session. He represented his district as a House and Senate member for 19 years and his presence will be sorely missed. Until the Pierce County Council selects his replacement, the Senate is essentially tied with 24 Republicans and 24 Democrats.

Legislators and the Governor have until June 11 to find agreement, or another special session will have to be called and a budget adopted by the end of June, since the new biennium starts on July 1.