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Published on Friday, April 10, 2015

Two weeks to make deals and adjourn

Pressure mounts as legislators clear their agendas of the easy bills and work behind closed doors to negotiate the tough items. Because so many of AWC’s priorities are linked to budget and fiscal decisions, their fate will be decided behind those doors and, likely, in the final days and hours. For example, given the fact that there’s a $1 billion gap between the House and Senate passed operating budgets, negotiators will be scrubbing line items to find cuts to close the gap. In recent years when state revenues were also tight, that’s when local government allocations took the last minute hits we’re working to avoid this time.

Here is a recap of where things stand at the start of week 14 of a 15 week session, followed by what you can do to track and impact the deliberations.

Shared Revenues – For starters, both the House and Senate budgets maintain critical shared revenues with two exceptions. The Senate continues the cuts to liquor taxes from last biennium and provides $24.9 million to cities and counties, whereas the House fully funds local liquor taxes at $49.8 million. The Senate also sweeps $9.6 million of the Fire Insurance Premium taxes currently helping 44 cities meet their LEOFF 1 retirement obligations.

Transportation – Early in the week, the House Transportation Committee is scheduled to pass their version of a multi-year investment and revenue package. It’s likely to treat cities even better than the Senate’s, and serious negotiations should commence.

Marijuana – Figuring out the right way to differentiate legitimate medical uses from recreational uses continues to be thorny, but the House acted late last week to straighten it out. They also passed legislation sharing some of the tax revenues with cities and counties (still not enough), and in a surprise move, and contorted voice vote, passed an amendment that requires a public vote if cities or counties want to ban recreational marijuana businesses.

Infrastructure Funding – Our aim has been to restore the state’s commitment to adequate and sustained funding for programs like the Public Works Trust Fund (PWTF). Both the House and Senate budgets continue to fund PWTF projects now underway, as well as allocate $70 million for new projects. Unlike the House approach, the Senate again sweeps loan repayment revenues and it is unclear whether they will maintain a future commitment to this important program.

To help you keep tabs on these important issues, we have a new and updated-daily Priority Status Report that uses simple green, red and yellow “signals” indicating how the House and Senate is addressing our issues. Sometimes, it’s more complicated, and there are links to explain why.

We’ve also prepared a quick and easy budget matrix that shows how the House, Senate, and Governor address key city revenues in their respective budget proposals. Keeping a commitment to include these items in final budget negotiations is our goal!

Finally, we received a welcome reminder last week proving that when you talk to your legislators, they can and do listen. When AWC launched our Operation Strong Cities campaign almost one year ago, a key component was urging you to engage with your legislators early, often, and with polite conviction. What happens in cities matters and so too does the partnership with the state if Washington is to remain a strong and great place to live, work, learn and play. Check out the story of what happened. Thanks and keep it up!

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