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Published on Monday, February 23, 2015

Other budget & finance bills – where are they now?

Today marks the start of the 7th week of session, and last Friday was the deadline for bills to move from policy committees. A number of bills we’ve previously written about made it through this early step in the legislative process.

SB 2084 allows the State Auditor’s Office (SAO) to impose a $500 fine on cities that do not file their annual financial reports by October 1. The bill also specifies that property and sales tax distributions are to be withheld from certain special districts until they file their reports. The bill passed the House Local Government Committee and was heard in the House Finance Committee this morning.

SB 5511 eliminates the ability of local governments to make sales tax changes effective October 1. Currently, changes may take effect on the first day of January, April, July, or October. AWC believes the bill has minimal impact on cities because very few sales tax changes have historically occurred on October 1. The bill passed the Senate Ways & Means Committee earlier this month.

AWC and a number of cities are supporting HB 1550, which simplifies the taxation of amusement, recreation, and physical fitness services. The bill passed the House Finance Committee and is eligible for a vote of the full House.

Several of the bills we’ve mentioned in previous Bulletins did not move by this first cutoff deadline and are likely dead for the year.

These bills include SB 5866, which allowed counties to keep all of the public safety sales tax if the tax was enacted after July 1, 2015. Buckley’s Mayor Pat Johnson and AWC’s Victoria Lincoln testified against this bill, highlighting the importance of the city-county partnership in this optional tax and cities’ need for public safety funding too.

Two other county proposals also failed to move by Friday. HB 1133 authorized a county utility tax in unincorporated areas. The bill was heard in January but did not make it out of committee. SB 5677 allowed county treasurers to keep an administrative fee for collecting property taxes for cities and special districts. This bill did not get a hearing.

SB 5811 also failed to make it out of committee. This bill modified last year’s legislation that established a property tax exemption for tribally-owned property used for economic development. Specifically, the bill eliminated the requirement that a tribe own the land prior to March 1, 2014, to qualify for the exemption. The bill may have impacts to the state budget, so AWC will continue to monitor it.

Bills referred to fiscal committees still have until Friday to make it out of committee. This means that some bills impacting local government finances have a few more days to move before being declared dead for the year. This includes HB 1251, which increases the emergency medical services levy from 50 cents to 75 cents per $1,000 assessed value. The bill was heard last month in the House Finance Committee but has not been brought up for a vote.

In addition, we would be remiss in not mentioning that AWC’s priority bills to restore city liquor revenue, SB 5896/HB 1517, are not subject to any of these early committee cutoffs as their impact to the state budget, although modest, makes them necessary to implement the budget and part of end of session discussions. We’ll keep you posted in future Bulletins.

Categories: Budget & finance