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Published on Friday, October 4, 2013

2014 Legislative priorities aim to re-set the city/state partnership

AWC’s Board of Directors met September 27 and adopted a focused set of four priorities for the upcoming 2014 session. They reflect a concern that the state is retreating from sharing revenue with cities.

I’m sharing them with you now, and during our series of twelve regional meetings, in the hope you will communicate these to your legislators and ask for their help. The historic partnership between the state and cities – where increasing numbers of Washingtonians live and work – is being seriously undermined by a combination of diverted resources, an expanding list of unfunded transportation projects and a lack of agreement to adjust or better fund mandates.

These trends are unsustainable if cities are to remain viable and able to house most of the additional 750,000 people estimated to reside and work here in the next 10 years.

During the 2014 legislative session, AWC will ask the Legislature and Governor to reshape our partnership in the following four ways:

  • Restore local liquor revenue sharing to the historic revenue sharing formulas –We need this so we can better fund public safety and other local impacts of liquor consumption.
    • The enhanced public safety funding promised in the 2011 liquor privatization initiative hasn’t been kept – in fact funding has been cut by legislative action and diverted to other uses.
  • Fund transportation needs now, including providing new local transportation options – Transportation is critical for our economic health so we must have the resources at both the state and local levels to maintain and improve our vital transportation systems.
    • Needs vary by region and so too must the array of options.
  • Halt and refrain from raiding infrastructure funds like the Public Works Trust Fund and Model Toxics Control Accounts and build them back to health – Our infrastructure is aging and we can’t keep up with demands and regulatory requirements.
    • Great cities don’t just happen – we need planned and sustained investments in order for Washington to thrive.
  • Share new marijuana revenue – The new recreational marijuana industry is subject to up to a 75% state excise tax, but none of this potential revenue is directed to locals to address public safety needs and other local impacts.
    • Cities and counties must enforce marijuana laws and need shared revenue to do this.

While not all of these may be priorities in your city right now, I hope you agree that building back and maintaining liquor revenue support for all cities to help fund local public safety needs is a must, as outlined in our fact sheet. Similarly, our citizens decided by initiative that recreational marijuana use should be legalized, sold in state regulated establishments and taxed (for more information click here). If that system is to work, there needs to be support for local law enforcement or the illicit market will continue to flourish. AWC also is evaluating ideas on how to reconcile differences between laws governing medical and recreational uses.

Most cities have transportation needs. We appreciate that Senators are now touring the state to hear what your needs and ideas are. You can read more about those meetings and what cities are sharing here.

We continue to hear frustration and disappointment from many of the 66 cities who were in the queue to receive low-interest infrastructure improvement loans from the Public Works Assistance Account (formerly called a Trust Fund, but no longer). Legislators swept and diverted most of the revenue sources funding loans for the next six years. We’ve calculated the program will lose $1 billion in loans and there is no current plan to replace them or address what happens absent these important funds. We’ve developed a background piece that unravels what happened and attempts to sort out what’s still available.

While we focus on our four priorities, we will continue to advocate for help meeting or adjusting state mandates. In addition, during our November 7 AWC legislative committee meeting at SeaTac, we’ll discuss and receive recommendations on what positions to take on dozens of other issues cities tell us are important.

Please let your legislators know the importance of maintaining a strong partnership with cities and, reinforce with them that in order to have a healthy Washington, cities need continued shared revenues and ways to maintain and expand local infrastructure. Our updated Advocacy Guide offers tips and suggestions on proven ways to connect with your legislators and community leaders.

Explosive growth in Washington’s cities

When the state’s Public Works Trust Fund (now the Assistance Account) was created in 1985, there were 2.2 million people living in our cities. As this graph shows, today there are over 4.4 million people living in cities – a 103% increase. The state’s population is forecast to grow by another 767,000 people (think Seattle and Bellevue combined) over the next 10 years and the large majority will live in cities.

How will services be provided and paid for?