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Published on Friday, April 12, 2013

State budget balanced in part by slashing a quarter of a billion dollars in city revenues

In response to a legislative agreement forged to adopt a state operating budget, the following press release was issued today from newly-elected AWC President Craig George, Mayor of Dayton, and Immediate Past President Don Gerend, Councilman from Samammish:

The Association of Washington Cities is extremely disappointed to learn that state budget negotiators have apparently decided to slash close to one quarter of a billion dollars in key infrastructure and public safety funds for cities. The news came as over 400 city officials gathered in Kennewick this week for AWC’s 80th annual conference.

While awaiting details and legislative action, it appears:

  • The state legislature is transferring to the general fund, most of the Public Works Trust Fund. This much utilized, long-admired loan program allows cities, as well as counties and utility districts, to build and maintain the facilities that keep our communities functioning. At risk next year are already-planned loans totaling $231 million to 66 cities and towns across the state.
  • The legislature also plans to cut in half – by $25 million – the amount of liquor taxes shared for more than 80 years with cities. These monies are used to fund police and firefighters and help respond to the social impacts of liquor consumption. Cities are particularly concerned with the state's withdrawal of support at a time when liquor sales are increasing, the number of retail outlets have quadrupled with liquor privatization, and our communities are about to experience additional public safety challenges resulting from marijuana legalization

We appreciate continued legislative interest in considering new transportation revenues and local funding to help fund much-needed road and other transportation services in cities across the state. We hope the Senate and House can find common ground on this important matter.

While very concerned about these diversions, we look forward to continuing a dialogue with the Governor and legislators about how to rebuild and strengthen the partnership between cities, where two-thirds of our citizens live and work, and the halls of our state Capitol where these types of critical decisions are made.

The legislature is expected to pass the operating budget and deliver it to the Governor for his signature by the end of today – Friday, June 28. Therefore, it’s clear that the state won’t shutter services and lay off workers when its new fiscal year starts on July 1. We expect consideration and passage of a Capital Budget after Friday. Less clear is whether or not the new Transportation Revenue package passed in the House late this week, will receive consideration and action in the Senate.

We soon will be sharing a session wrap-up with you, as well as a guide to what passed and didn’t that impacts cities. As we prepare to wave goodbye to one of the longest legislative sessions ever, we’ll also be asking you for ideas on what issues to consider as our process to start building at 2014 legislative agenda begins after the Fourth of July holiday.