Last week’s Bulletin ran through issues impacting cities as legislators and Governor Gregoire worked to find common ground and adjourn. While city issues weren’t front and center in their negotiations, city revenue distributions played a key role in the final deal that unfolded in the early morning hours on April 11.
For the past few weeks, it’s been clear that part of the way legislators could leave town with a balanced state budget would be to change the accounting procedure on how city and county sales taxes are redistributed back to individual communities. While this does not impact when cities receive funds or how much flows back to each city, it does allow the state to credit itself with a one-time $238 million savings.
Last fall, it became clear that cities would be vulnerable to reductions in state-shared liquor revenue. The question has been how much and for how long.
- Cities consistently shared that they’re willing to take temporary reductions in distributions to help balance the current state budget deficit. We’ve consistently opposed permanent shifts – both because funds are needed locally to support public safety and meet state mandates, and because permanent shifts aren’t needed by the state until it works on revenue and expenditure issues next biennium.
- As it turns out, the Legislature took as much as allowed by last fall’s liquor privatization measure (I-1183) for the rest of biennium.
- Of major concern, they decided (on a close vote) to dedicate future growth in liquor accounts to state programs – thus capping any growth in these accounts for cities. These funds aren’t used to balance this biennium’s budget. AWC opposed this and will be sharing our views with the Governor as she signs bills passed in the last few days of the special session.
Cities are also impacted by changes to funding streams dedicated to support a healthy Public Works Trust Fund.
See more here for cuts to state-shared liquor revenue and changes to PWTF.
A capital budget was adopted – less than some hoped for, and more than others expected. It provides approximately $1.1 billion to fund projects around the state and is estimated to create 18,000-20,000 jobs – sorely needed and much appreciated! See more here.
Unfortunately, SB 6582, the local transportation options bill, did not come up in special session – we believe there were enough votes in both chambers, but the bill was not integral to getting the operating and capital budgets passed.
Finally, just before the stroke of midnight, the Legislature passed a natural resources reform bill that provides AWC-supported reform of the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) and provides some helpful direction to the Department of Ecology on the soon- to-be-issued new municipal stormwater permits. See more here.
A final word of thanks to the many city officials who communicated with us, your legislators, and the Governor during these grueling months as budget challenges were faced at home and here in Olympia. Your contacts made a difference.
We’ll be summarizing what happened in an upcoming Final Legislative Bulletin, and work is already underway to develop ideas for next session when a new Legislature and governor come to town. Look for information in AWC’s CityVoice on how your thoughts and ideas can help shape the next agenda!