Legislative Update on Addressing Budget Shortfall

Updates on Special Session and Budget Shortfall

A Message from Doug Levy, WRPA Lobbyist

On Thursday, June 18, virtual meetings were held where both Senate Ways & Means Chair Christine Rolfes (D-Bainbridge Island/23rd Dist.) and House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan (D-Covington/47th Dist.) spoke. Both members made it pretty clear that early August to mid-August is what we should expect, and be preparing for, in terms of a Special Session of the Legislature. Based on comments—Sen. Rolfes as a guest speaker before an Association of Washington Cities’ (AWC) Legislative Committee, and Rep. Sullivan with a group of local government lobbyists—this will be a very brief and surgical Special Session to get at budget issues and make some dent in a 4-year, $8.8 billion shortfall.

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A few specific comments of interest:

  • Senator Rolfes on CARES Act dollars: “We should be able to use some of that” to address part of the shortfall. There still is about $240 million that could be considered as targeted for local government.
  • Senator Rolfes on pension payments by state and local governments: “I think that’s one place where we may be able to free up some dollars.”
  • Senator Rolfes on questions about new-revenue proposals during Special Session: “I don’t think we will be doing anything dramatic.”
  • Senator Rolfes on a question about Tax Increment Financing: Something she can support “if it’s not involving a rebate from state general-fund dollars.” She has not supported re-establishment of things like Local Revitalization Financing which draw from state sales tax. A bill last Session ‘died’ in the Senate Ways & Means Committee.
  • Rep. Sullivan on magnitude of budget deficit: Said the overall $8.8 billion, as bad as it is, was somewhat of a relief. “Some of us thought it was going to be worse.”
  • Rep.Sullivan on scope of Special Session items: “Budgetary, local government flexibility, maybe a very few policy bills” on the table.
  • Rep. Sullivan on this “very limited agenda”: “We’re not going to take on things that will harm local government or interfere with their duties.”
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