The House Democrats' proposed operating budget was released the morning of February 21. A public hearing was held that afternoon and AWC Vice President and Sammamish Councilmember Don Gerend, along with Hoquiam City Administrator Brian Shay, testified with concerns on our behalf.
The Senate budget (assumed to be more bipartisan upon introduction) is likely to be released early next week – possibly Tuesday the 28th. Rumors are that the Senate cuts to local government may be less and laid out differently, than in the House Democrat version, but may contain other items that concern cities.
Read the State Budget section to see how the House Democrat’s proposal has major impacts for cities. The significant cuts to cities’ revenue are supposed to be linked with an anticipated bill that provides a series of new local-option sales tax authorities (which we never asked for) and cost-savings measures (which we did ask for). The idea, so we're told, is that cuts to your revenue only occur if the new revenue/cost-savings bill passes. Details are still fuzzy.
Legislators hope to finish their work in two weeks, on March 8. We're picking up that the House budget won't move as quickly as we first assumed – maybe not until next weekend (March 3-4). That schedule assumes they would work out most, if not all, differences with the Senate prior to House passage – a difficult task. We’ll know more early next week. The capital budget – mostly intended as a "jobs package" and described in more detail here – also needs to be passed.
All session long, we've been following the AWC Board-adopted priorities and budget principles as we've attempted to address legislation and stake out positions on budgets. In a nutshell:
- We worked to minimize anticipated revenue cuts and keep them temporary.
- We let legislators know that our preference, if feasible, is to receive cuts in an across-the-board fashion, versus cherry-picked cuts within one or more categories of shared revenue.
- We worked to make sure that cuts are matched by cost-savings actions by the state.
Your AWC lobbyists and others representing various cities continue to meet and confer with key legislators in both chambers and both political parties. The above messages are being heard and need to be reinforced from home.
A final note: During this last year of Governor Gregoire’s service, we found ourselves at times needing to express concerns about some of her ideas or proposals. Our intent has always been to do so forthrightly and with respect for her and all she’s done for cities across the state. A number of our cities lately have been at odds with her over municipal business and occupation tax collections. This week, that dispute has been resolved and we extend our thanks and appreciation to the Governor and her staff. You can read more about this issue in the Municipal Finance section. We look forward to continuing the strong partnership we’ve valued during her distinguished tenure.