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Published on Friday, March 14, 2014

Disappointing session for cities

The 2014 legislative session sputtered to a conclusion with little to show for cities across the state. Although city priorities were considered, none were able to pass both chambers. We were more successful in convincing legislators that several bills harmful to cities shouldn’t move forward, and in some cases we were able to help modify bad ideas to ones less harmful.

Unlike in past several sessions, state revenues shared with cities weren’t cut or eliminated. While the Legislature was unwilling to restore growth in local liquor revenue, they maintained their commitment to correct an error in last year’s budget that would have made deeper cuts to local liquor taxes. Therefore, cities can expect to see liquor revenue at current distribution levels through October 2015.

Reconciling medical and recreational marijuana markets and sharing new tax revenue with cities remained under consideration until the last hours of session. The Legislature did not come to agreement and the issues are sure to return in the next legislative session.

The legislature also failed to agree on a supplemental capital budget, leaving some projects and grant programs with fewer resources. This includes the state Water Pollution Control Revolving Fund which had been targeted for an additional $70.5 million by both the House and Senate.

In the transportation arena, the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus formally released its own transportation revenue proposal (the House passed its in 2013) but little progress was made in reaching agreement on a package that could pass both chambers.

When legislators return in January 2015, they will have to confront the realities of adequate K-12 education funding. To agree on what’s needed and find the funding to do it will be a major challenge. What cities need may fall on deaf ears unless we all work over the next months to educate community leaders and local legislators/candidates on the critical needs for infrastructure and public safety in our communities. AWC will focus our efforts and resources to help you in this effort.

Thanks to everyone who connected with your representatives and others to promote strong and healthy cities. We’ll provide you a more complete summary of what happened the last week of session in our March 21 Bulletin and will compile and publish a complete 2014 session summary towards the end of April.