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Published on Friday, January 13, 2017

Seven principles guide our work as we represent your state budget interests

With so much attention on legislators finding agreement on both a biennial operating budget and a long-term plan to fund K-12 education, AWC’s Board of Directors recently updated the principles we use to guide how we assess and articulate city and town needs during this process.

Our aim is not to badger decision-makers with these principles, but to engage in a constructive dialogue throughout the session about the value and needs of our communities, and to reiterate that strong cities add fiscal value to the state.

This legislative session could last beyond 105 days and it is likely that few definitive budget decisions will be made until close to its end. We have used – and will continue to use – these principles in testimony and in discussions with legislators on both policy and fiscal proposals. We also encourage you to use these points when communicating with your own legislators.

AWC Budget Principles

For the state to thrive and grow, it must invest in strong cities and towns. AWC recognizes our partners in the State Legislature are burdened with their own difficult budget decisions, but they should not discount both the value and economic impact that healthy cities provide to Washington State as a whole.

Over the last few biennia, the state has balanced its budget at the expense of cities. While we understand the fiscal challenges the Legislature faces, we cannot accept that sweeping critical funds from their intended uses is in the best interest of our state. AWC supports the Legislature in securing sufficient revenue to fund state programs and obligations, and unilateral elimination or significant reduction of state funding to cities is not acceptable.

In development of the state budget, cities ask that the following be considered:

  • State revenues distributed to cities and towns are driven by decades of past decisions to deliver vital services to our citizens. Without those past decisions, other solutions and local authorities would have been explored. Cities continue to rely on these funds to support safe communities and strong infrastructure and seek the state’s ongoing commitment to fully fund shared revenues.
  • There should be no cuts in revenue distributions without cost relief, new councilmanic revenue authorities, or additional local options. If state support to cities is curtailed, the cuts in revenue should be in tandem with measures that provide cost relief to local jurisdictions - either through reduced mandates or responsibilities or expanded home rule authorities.
  • Given state and local fiscal conditions, new mandates (legislative, agency rules, or permits) that add costs and responsibilities are unacceptable unless new and sufficient resources accompany such mandates.
  • Sewer and water systems are in need of upgrades due to age, population growth, and new regulations. Basic infrastructure investment is the best economic development program the state has, and without assistance, many areas of the state will be left behind. The state needs to reinvest in local infrastructure programs. The dedicated funding mechanisms should be preserved.
  • The Municipal Research and Services Center (MRSC) already is funded by cities and counties through a portion our liquor revenue distributions. The current funding mechanism for this critical and effective source of information and ideas throughout the state should be preserved because this information creates more efficiency and cost savings, including implementation of the state’s laws and requirements.