Slightly more than half way through the 60-day session, attention now turns towards the real reason legislators are in town – crafting and passing an adjusted budget that finds hundreds of ways to eliminate $1 billion from items in the general fund passed last spring. They also want to make sure there’s around $.5 billion in reserves – so more cuts are needed. Within these cuts, revenues shared with cities are on the chopping block. Without your strong and clear words of concern to your legislators, these funds might disappear altogether – forever.
We anticipate attempts to release a proposed supplemental budget shortly after next week’s updated state revenue forecast. We know whenever it comes out, it will include cuts to the approximately $100 million direct distributions shared annually with all 281 cities – half of which is liquor money used in city general fund budgets to help fund public safety. Part if not all of those funds are at risk. So are all other distributions.
Your AWC Board of Directors sent a letter to legislative and budget leaders reminding them of the need to maintain a strong commitment to the economic health of cities, where most of the state’s economic activity occurs. In a united voice, they acknowledged the reality that some cuts are inevitable and suggested they be temporary and connected to reforms that help cities save money and provide updated opportunities to raise revenue on their own (see the Municipal Finance section for updates on those ideas).
Legislators have until Valentine’s Day to pass non-budget-related bills from either the House or Senate, after which those that survive are considered in the opposite chamber. Most bills detrimental to cities aren’t moving forward. Those that are and need your attention are described within this week’s Bulletin. Other bills helpful to cities – like those providing new local transportation funding options (HB 2751/SB 6582), public records relief (SB 6351 and HB 6146), gang prevention and intervention (HB 2432) and SEPA modernization (SB 6130 and HB 2253) need to move forward and could use voices of encouragement from home to your legislators. You can also find a short summary of House and Senate bills we support and oppose.
I can’t emphasize enough how critical the next few weeks are and the importance of adding your individual voices to the chorus of those from around the state (with many valid and sometimes conflicting interests) all asking their legislators “don’t cut me.” As city officials who often struggle with similar challenges when making budget decisions, you know the importance and value of good advice from a constituent. Please put those insights to good use and pick up the phone or drop a line to your local legislator. It can make a difference.