Everett and Edmonds mayors ask Inslee to prune the budget

OLYMPIA — The mayors of Everett and Edmonds are asking Gov. Jay Inslee to get rid of one of the many pieces state lawmakers used to complete this year’s budget puzzle.

And they’re not alone.

As of Friday, Inslee had received three dozen letters from communities, organizations and individuals urging him to veto provisions in the 352-page supplemental spending plan passed by the Legislature on March 29. The governor has until April 21 to act.

He’s been asked to axe a transfer of money from the state auditor’s office, a proviso to limit new loans for public work projects and an earmark to Skamania County to deal with the costs of prosecuting Discover Pass violations.

The leaders of Everett and Edmonds want him to cross out Section 920 which changes how money will be distributed from an account known as the Fire Insurance Premium Tax. The mayors’ concern is their cities could lose tens of thousands of dollars and maybe end up with nothing.

And, in separate letters, they expressed frustration the significant revisions never received any public hearing and showed up in the final agreement on the final day. The cities of Seattle, Tacoma, Kent, Bremerton and several firefighter unions also sent letters seeking a veto.

“We recognize the significant budget pressures facing the state and the Legislature’s need to find areas in which to compromise in developing the budget,” wrote Edmonds Mayor Dave Earling. “There was no opportunity to fully evaluate the impact of Section 920 or to talk with legislators regarding that impact.”

Historically, a quarter of the tax money has been distributed to 44 cities and two fire districts to defray some of their respective costs for the Law Enforcement Officer and Firefighters Plan 1 pension.

The budget creates new eligibility requirements and cities expect it will result in them collecting less or no money.

Everett would stop receiving $164,000 a year and Edmonds could lose out on $48,449 a year, according to information the mayors sent the governor.

Another provision Inslee is getting pressed to veto is a transfer of $10 million from the State Auditor’s Office to the Department of Revenue. The money would come out of the Performance Audit of Governments account.

Deputy State Auditor Jan Jutte said the transfer coupled with a sweep of $12.6 million from the same account in 2015 would result in layoffs and stoppage of work on some current audits.

“I believe this is a short-sighted approach that, rather than save the state money, will cost our state the important solutions that performance audits can offer,” she wrote in a March 30 letter.

The Washington Finance Officers Association, the city of Camas, and the Municipal Research and Services Center sent letters supporting a veto. So, too, did state Sen. Mark Miloscia, R-Federal Way, who is running to be Washington’s next state auditor.

Backers of the state’s Public Works Trust Fund want a proviso cut that redirects $227 million for new project loans into sustaining public schools. The move would occur in the 2017-19 budget.

It would leave the state Public Works Board with no ability to issue new loans for public infrastructure, supporters of a veto wrote to the governor.

Other veto requests seek to:

Preserve $811,000 to pay for processing lawsuits that are required by law to be filed in Thurston County because it is home to the state’s capital city. Certain cases, such as challenges to the title of proposed ballot measures, must be filed in the county. If funding is eliminated as proposed in the budget, there could be layoffs and a backlog of cases could develop, say veto supporters.

Erase a proviso directing $20,000 to Skamania County “for court costs related to processing Discover Pass violations.” Don Hoch, director of the state Parks and Recreation Commission, asked for a veto. He said in his letter that providing such financial relief is not justified when other counties also have high numbers of violators.

Eliminate a provision to place the Okanogan Conservation District in charge of operating and maintaining stream gauges installed by the state following last year’s wildfires. The gauges give downstream landowners a warning of rapidly rising waters that might pose a risk to their property. The budget does not provide the $65,000 a year to maintain the gauges. Without the money, “they will have to be shut down and removed”, wrote Mark Clark, executive director of the state Conservation Commission. Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com

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