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Published on Monday, March 30, 2015

Legislators’ budget priorities beginning to emerge

Everyone knew the day would come. For months speculation has mounted about how legislators would respond to the State Supreme Court’s mandate to adequately fund K-12 education. Those details are now emerging and include not only how these budgets impact our AWC priorities, but also those of the many other public and private interests within our communities.

The clash of ideas and philosophies will be very visible over the coming week as legislators and interests stake out positions and make statements in the media.

At AWC, we’re looking at all of this through the lens of how decisions in Olympia will impact and provide opportunities within our 281 member cities and towns in a state where the economy is slowly recovering – faster in some places than in many others. For AWC, decisions legislators and the Governor make this session must:

  • Do no harm by not reducing or eliminating revenues shared with cities and by not imposing new and costly unfunded mandates.
  • Help with building and maintaining infrastructure, be it by adoption of a 21st century transportation package or by maintaining a commitment to programs like the Public Works Trust Fund, the Centennial Clean Water Fund and the Transportation Improvement Board.
  • Sort out regulation of medical and recreational marijuana in ways to protect legitimate patient access and ensure cities have a share of new revenues to address public health and safety impacts.

The House Democrats revealed their priorities late last week (see details here) with both operating and capital proposals that were essentially supportive of AWC priorities, but at a price. For their budgets to balance, they need new revenue from new sources or changes to certain business tax exemptions.

The Senate Republicans are expected to unveil their priorities mid-week and are not expected to rely upon new revenues or tax changes. How they address AWC priorities will soon be known, and we’ll share that information as soon as it becomes available.

Once the Senate budgets are released we will be able to compare how their approach stacks up against those of House Democrats and the Governor’s budget proposals that were released in late in December 2014. We will share that analysis with you, our members.

We’re also scheduled to discuss the pros and cons of these proposals with the AWC Board of Directors, who will provide us with direction on positions we’ll take during the closing days of the session.

Legislators have the difficult job – the one they were elected to do – to match their priorities with sufficient funding. They will do this either with only those revenues projected to be available from existing sources, or with the addition of new ones. Many pundits believe the differences between budget proposals and philosophies will make it unlikely that this 105-day session will adjourn on-time, by April 26. We remain hopeful they can find common ground by then and that AWC’s priorities will be addressed.