After the 60-day session concluded and legislators failed to agree to adjustments for the rest of the state’s two-year operating budget, Governor Gregoire told them to come back Monday, March 12, to finish their work. According to press reports, she wants them to focus on budget matters – both operating and capital. She also wants them to address local-option transportation revenue, an AWC priority. The Governor insists that she and Senate and House leadership must agree on any other short list items that will be dealt with in special session. We won’t know what those issues are for sure until next week.
Your AWC priority – protecting as much state-shared revenue as we can – is very much in the mix of unfinished business. So too might be efforts to enact reforms that can help cities adjust to these leaner times and offset whatever cuts are passed along. Why? Because legislators continue to hear from cities across the state. Keep it up please!
Front and center for cities is the question of how deep cuts will be to almost 80 years of state-shared liquor revenue, and whether those cuts will be in effect only through the end of the biennium (July 2013), or permanent. Last year cities shared, on a per capita basis, $54 million that helps pay for general fund services – a significant portion of which is public safety. Our goal is to preserve as much of this historic amount as possible. Passage of the liquor privatization ballot measure, I-1183, guaranteed continued sharing a majority of this revenue (for cities, approximately $40 million), but didn’t guarantee the distribution of any new profits. This frees up the Governor and Legislature to consider sweeping them to fill their own general fund gaps.
Before session began, the Governor proposed taking all liquor revenue that wasn’t guaranteed, on a permanent basis. Cities across the state objected. The first budget that passed the House also took it all permanently, but assumed passage of legislation giving cities and counties replacement revenue options. That didn’t happen. Senate Democrats proposed taking it all too, but only through July 2013. Senate Republicans took control of the budget late last week, and their passed version took it all permanently. On March 8, the House again passed a budget – this time agreeing with Senate Democrats by taking the money, but temporarily.
This week’s state budget article describes where things stand now and notes the unresolved question of local government liquor revenues. You can read more about unresolved transportation funding issues and our continuing efforts to promote reform and cost savings . We remain engaged in discussions with legislators in both chambers and both political parties, as well as with the Governor’s office. We unequivocally oppose a permanent sweep of liquor revenues, but must accept the reality that some will be swept at least temporarily. We’re asking them to take as little as possible, and to match it with ways to help cities save money.