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Published on Friday, May 22, 2015

Expect a post-Memorial Day push to conclude this long legislative session

Legislative leaders and the Governor’s team continue to actively discuss ways to conclude the 2015 session, if not by the end of the 30-day special session on May 28, soon thereafter. In the week prior to the holiday, they received a revised economic forecast estimating that revenue collections for the next two-year state budget have increased by nearly $309 million. They also saw and read about work slow-downs and rallies by both teachers and state workers who are dissatisfied with the lack of progress on adopting a budget.

All that said, there appears to remain a major stumbling block to wrapping up their work. Paraphrasing what the Governor said recently, he noted that Democrats are approaching budget negotiations with an eye on funding top priorities by making sure there’s sufficient revenue to support them. The Republicans, however, approach it by looking at available revenue first and then prioritizing what will be funded. Everyone agrees there’s more revenue available, but their priorities on what and how to fund things isn’t the same on things such as K-12 education and compensation for state workers.

These differences in philosophy and priorities aren’t new, nor will they ultimately stand in the way of an agreement. As noted in my article last week, the longer it takes our state leaders to figure this out, the greater the risk is that:

  • The operating budget may get balanced by again de-funding or underfunding shared revenues or key programs important to cities; and
  • They may run out of steam or political will to address some important unfinished business like passing a statewide transportation package.

AWC and other city lobbyists continue to urge legislators to maintain critical shared revenues, preserve a viable Public Works Trust Fund, obtain a long-term commitment to share new marijuana tax revenues, and adopt a comprehensive transportation package. We’d also like to see action on several policy bills, such as HB 1472, which addresses one of the ways to best manage chemicals entering waterways to help maintain healthy habitat for fish. This is a key component of an AWC-supported approach to dealing with the complex fish consumption rate issue that has been unfolding over the past few years.

All eyes will be on the Capitol this week as legislators return from the Memorial Day holiday and, as expected, buckle down to some serious negotiations to complete their work. If you haven’t already refreshed your memory of what state shared revenues are at risk for your city, just click here.

Make that call or send a message to your legislators that it’s time to wrap up their work. Ask them to help cities continue providing our residents and businesses with the kinds of quality communities that are fueling the economic activity that is providing them the revenues to meet their obligations.

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