Home  |   About us  |   Partner with AWC  |   Login      


Welcome to AWC’s online library of Legislative Bulletin and CityVoice news articles and other updates.

Published on Friday, February 6, 2015

A debate that might help build bridges to craft a budget?

AWC’s 2015 priorities are primarily about protecting and enhancing the fiscal sustainability of cities. Our success relies on convincing lawmakers to

  1. Avoid new unfunded mandates,
  2. Maintain and enhance tools allowing cities to manage their own affairs, and
  3. Continue to support a state/local government fiscal partnership that guarantees some of the revenues generated within cities are returned home to support the services and infrastructure needed to sustain vitality.

By the end of this 105-day session, the only thing required of the Legislature is to adopt a balanced budget by July 1, and there’s more revenue projected to help them accomplish that.

The problem is the needs and demands on this budget outweigh projected revenues. Some of those “needs” aren’t agreed to across the aisle, Capitol rotunda or between the floors where the Governor and legislators do their work. It’s also difficult to find agreement on what’s driving demands. Legislative budget leaders are quietly trying to figure this all out while most legislators go about the business of holding hearings and meetings about a range of other policy matters.

In the midst of all of this, and following last fall’s close statewide vote passing I-1351 (K-12 Class size), uncommonly bi-partisan groups of legislators are introducing a series of bills aimed at helping voters connect the dots between what they might like as ideas and how to pay for them. Diverse opinions are surfacing on what changes, if any, to make to laws governing how measures get to the ballot and what’s included as voter information once there. Legislators who often can’t agree with one another are finding themselves on the same side – whichever side that might be. Are changes warranted? Do they help or hinder the fundamental parts of the initiative and referendum process available in Washington since 1912? For those measures with fiscal impacts above a certain level, how can those impacts best be determined and described?

Under current law, after citizen initiatives or referenda are filed, there’s a specified amount of time for signatures to be collected to qualify for statewide consideration at the polls. For those measures qualifying, the Office of Financial Management must prepare (as of changes to the law in 2004) a fiscal analysis of the impacts on state or local governments. That information is summarized in the voter pamphlet for measures that qualify.

AWC supported that 2004 change and has carefully weighed in on initiative reform legislation in the past. Our direction to do so comes from a membership-approved Statement of Policy that is reviewed and updated every few years. Previous versions of it have directly addressed this issue, particularly following the passage of initiatives impacting state and local revenues, such as the I-695 repeal of the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax and the I-747 1% property tax cap. The current AWC Statement of Policy, reviewed and adopted during our June 2014 Annual Meeting, articulates that we support the “objective review of the impact of statewide ballot measures and initiatives on local governments, both before and after passage of such measures.”

We’re interested in some level of engagement in this debate as it unfolds and will be seeking direction on how best to do that when our Board of Directors meets in Olympia on February 17 in advance of our City Action Days gathering. The initiative and referendum process is a cornerstone of how Washingtonians are governed and govern themselves and it must be protected. That doesn’t mean citizens don’t deserve ways to improve transparency, nor should legislators shy away from debating how best to make that happen. Who knows, maybe in the process of doing so, they’ll find agreement on budget priorities.