WSAC/WACO Joint Conference Save the Date
Scott Blonien
Now It's Getting Interesting

Today, Friday, February 24 is day 47 of the 2017 session.
We are noticing that bills, which are positive and support good policy, with no downside, seem to be stalled. During budget cycles bills can be held as leverage for budget provisos, or even a totally different unrelated bill. This policy chess match plays out in a more pronounced way when each house of the legislature is controlled by different major parties; and can be especially prevalent during biennial budget building sessions.
We are hearing that bills, which have any state fiscal impact, no matter how slight, may be held until the budget is negotiated. Budget negotiations between the two houses/parties may come down to striking a balance between bills that drive new revenue and bills that generate new costs.  
So what does this mean, and where do we stand?
Today is the second cut-off. It is the last day to have bills read in committee reports. To continue bills must pass out of committees and be read into the record on the floor. Bills now must be either in Rules, or on the floor for a vote. The cut-off for a floor vote is March 8. After that our bills must be in the opposite house for them to continue.
Fortunately, both versions of the Auditors' cleanup bill are in Rules, as is the Clerks' Senate bill, the Coroners' House bill, and the Treasurers' Senate bill. The Treasurers' House bill has already cleared the House. A more detailed status for each bill, and a brief description is just below.
Our remaining bills have a financial component to them, even if it is quite small, and may come back into play after the budget negotiations begin. Shortly before Sine Die there could be a flurry of action on several bills, even ones we thought were dead, that lay dormant for many weeks waiting negotiating of a compromise budget. In short, the session is a marathon not a sprint that requires a great deal of nerve and patience.

The Senate Proposed Budget

We are expecting that the Senate’s proposed budget will be introduced sometime during the week of March 20, after the release of the next revenue forecast. If the rumors we are hearing remotely resemble reality, we will need to mobilize county support. We are being told that the Senate’s budget could be catastrophic to counties; revenue sharing and direct allocations we’ve come to relay on may be in peril.
This isn’t news to us; we’re ready for the challenge. We’ve always known that severe cuts in revenue to the counties was a possibility, and we’ve been planning and preparing for it with the additional assets we’re able to devote during this session.
Things to keep in mind are: the Senate budget is a starting point, from which to initiate negotiations. The work we’ve been doing for the past three years, educating the legislators of the counties’ dire financial plight may pay dividends. If the legislature wants the counties to continue to function to serve the citizens, they’ll need to provide new non-state (local) revenue sources to make up for the cuts.
When the budget is dropped we’ll share the details.
Stay tuned.

Priority Bills

Assessors: (HB 1309SB 5188) The Assessors’ bill to remove land from the current property tax classification bill did not make the second cut-off.
Auditors: (HB 1161, SB 5187) the Auditors' cleanup bill. Both the House and the Senate versions of this bill are currently in Rules.

(HB 1345) The Auditors' licensing fee bill did not make the second cut-off.

Clerks: (HB 1396SB 5327) Despite strong opposition, WACO and the Clerks continue to aggressively advocate for the Senate version of the bill. The Senate version of the bill is currently in Rules. The House version did not make the second cut-off.

Coroners: (HB 1794SB 5612) The Coroners' bill concerning the death investigations account is currently in House Rules. The Senate version did not make the second cut-off.

FSI: (HB 1764SB 5772) Replacing the one percent property tax revenue limit with a limit tied to cost drivers did not make the second cut-off.

Prosecutors: (HB 1355SB 5278) The Prosecutors' Public Safety Review Board bill did not make the second cut-off.
Treasurers: (HB 1283SB 5189) The Treasurers’ anticipated tax bill is in Senate Rules. The House version has already passed the House and is currently introduced in the Senate.

Our Progress Thus far

Other Bills of Interest

The following bills of interest were discussed by the Legislative Committee, who then voted to take a position on the bills. 

Support: (HB 1209, SB 5396) This bill allows counties more options in depositories by opening up the pool to credit unions. The House version of this bill has passed the the House and is introduced in the Senate.

Support: (HB 1595) This bill concerns the costs associated with public records, allowing governments to collect a modest fee for electronic records gathered. This bill is currently in Rules.

Legislative Reception
WACO and WSAC staff and members mingle with legislators and staff during the February 15 legislative reception at Water Street Cafe.

Legislative Receptions

During session we are partnering with WSAC for four legislative receptions at the Water Street Café in Olympia. Please put these receptions on your calendars and give your local legislators a call to invite them to join us.

The remaining receptions are:

  • March 15, 6:00-8:00 PM, Water Street Café
  • April 5, 6:00-8:00 PM, Water Street Cafe
Legislative Website

Passing Notes onto the Floor

In the final video on legislative advocacy, our partners at WSAC have produced a great video on "Passing Notes onto the Floor".

FSI Video
The Situation

The Situation is an advocacy video that explains that Counties are responsible for law enforcement, criminal justice, and public safety. But, for the last decade, Washington counties have faced a 1% cap on the annual property tax increases they can receive.

Over time, cost have outpaces revenue, creating a budget gap the gets worse every year. View the video on YouTube (link).

Eyman Tax Cap Now Has Some Big Supporters Seeking Relief
(Courtesy of the Crosscut)

The city of Rosalia, about 40 miles south of Spokane, brings in $660 dollars a year in property taxes. A good chunk goes to paying the roughly $200 phone bill of city manager Jenna McDonald. They’d like to ask voters for money to help fund roads, but it costs $1,200 just to get a measure on the ballot.


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