City Legislative Priorities – 2021 in progress

AWC’s Legislative Priorities Committee recently wrapped up their work to come up with a set of 2021 legislative priority recommendations. The AWC Board will consider the committee’s recommendations at the October 2 Board meeting and take final action to adopt 2021 City Legislative Priorities. Read more about the recommended priorities and stay tuned to this page for the final priorities in early October.


City Legislative Priorities – 2020 outcomes

The 2020 Legislature addressed AWC’s priorities, resulting in both pros and cons for cities. Cities achieved many positive outcomes, but work remains to prepare for next session. Read the pros and cons of the 2020 legislative session below.


Adopt a comprehensive set of transportation policies that provide robust new resources and local options

Cities are responsible for a significant share of the statewide transportation system and fund most of that responsibility out of local tax dollars. Cities struggle to meet the $1 billion gap in transportation maintenance and preservation costs. To meet these ever-expanding needs, the state must maintain existing and create new transportation specific revenue options for cities. The state must also develop a statewide transportation package that includes increased resources for city transportation needs.

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The Legislature:

PRO: Passed a supplemental transportation budget that provides funding for projects previously paused by the Governor. The Legislature balanced the budget largely through one-time measures, including reductions based on historical underspending. Although the Transportation Improvement Board (TIB) appropriations were reduced by $9 million, this was a more modest reduction than what could have occurred.

CON: Failed to pass HB 2362 and SB 6652 creating additional local government transportation revenue options.


Fully fund the Public Works Trust Fund (PWTF)

The Public Works Trust Fund is a crucial funding partner in our efforts to provide the necessary infrastructure for our communities. We seek full funding for the program and ask the state to protect the current stream of loan repayments and uphold the 2% state share of REET dedicated to the account. Additionally, we look to strengthen the program by ending the ongoing revenue diversions as soon as possible.

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The Legislature:

PRO: Passed supplemental budgets that did not sweep any additional funds out of the PWTF.

CON: Continued diversions and sweeps from the PWTF that were adopted in the 2019 session.


Create a tax increment financing (TIF) option for cities

Washington’s cities need economic development tools that help maintain, expand, and modernize local infrastructure to spur local private sector investment. By investing in TIF, the Legislature can partner with cities to advance our shared goals of building a robust and diverse economy for communities around the state. For maximum impact, cities need access to both property-tax and sales-tax based TIF programs.

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The Legislature:

CON: Failed to pass HB 2804 reopening the Local Revitalization Financing program for new project funding.

CON: Failed to pass HB 2778 and HJR 4212 allowing for property tax-based TIF.


Preserve city fiscal health with secure funding sources

Cities need revenue authority and flexibility to keep up with community growth and increasing service needs. State investment in shared revenue distributions is instrumental to support essential city programs and services. Responsive revenue options allow local elected officials to make the best community-based decisions about how to keep up with growth and the increasing costs of providing basic services like public safety and transportation. Arbitrary restrictions on local revenue decisions unnecessarily hurt residents by limiting critical local services.

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The Legislature:

PRO: Maintained funding in state-shared revenues for Liquor Profits, Liquor Taxes, Cannabis Taxes, Municipal Criminal Justice Assistance, Fire Insurance Premium Taxes, and City-County Assistance.

CON: Adopted a new unfunded cost-of-living increase for PERS 1 retirees that will increase city pension costs.

CON: Did not consider revising the 1% property tax cap for cities.


Support statewide medication assisted treatment (MAT) services in city and regional jails by providing local flexibility

Cities are experiencing the consequences of an overwhelmed state behavioral health system. While the state has made investments to address some of the challenges, more help is needed. Local jails have increasingly been called to action to address opioid use disorder and provide treatment. However, the costs are overwhelming city criminal justice budgets across the state. City jails need additional state support to access MAT services to save lives and reduce recidivism.

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The Legislature:

PRO: Appropriated funding for a study to develop a scalable model to implement MAT in city and regional jail facilities. Report due in November 2020.

PRO: Passed HB 2642 prohibiting insurers from requiring prior authorization for residential substance use disorder treatment services or withdrawal management services.

PRO: Passed SB 6086 allowing a pharmacy’s license of location to be extended to a registered remote dispensing site to dispense medications for opioid use disorder.

CON: Failed to pass HB 2438 imposing an impact fee on opioid manufacturers to fund treatment and prevention of opioid misuse and abuse.


Advance a watershed-based strategic plan to address local fish-blocking culverts along with state culverts

Cities need the state to adopt a broader vision to create a comprehensive response that funds local barrier corrections and provides actual habitat access for fish. Cities recognize that the state is facing a $4 billion price tag to fix fish-blocking culverts that the U.S. Supreme Court has found to impinge on tribal treaty rights to fish harvests. Cities also own 1,300 barriers in the same streams, and similarly have no identified revenues to pay for needed corrections. A statewide approach is the only way to achieve meaningful salmon and orca recovery.

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The Legislature:

PRO: Adopted all three state supplemental budgets with elements that support the state's more expansive vision to address fish passage, including strategic investment support for cities. This will inform the larger funding conversation by the state next session.


Continue to pursue new resources and policies to increase affordable housing both at the state and local level

Our communities continue to face a housing crisis and need state support to incentivize housing options. The Legislature can help by proactively supporting cities’ voluntary adoption of more effective ADU ordinances and providing additional councilmanic tax authority for housing. Cities need enhanced tools to attract and preserve multifamily development, like changing the multifamily tax exemption program to open it to smaller cities, extending the tax exemption for continued affordability guarantees, and expanding the ability to preserve existing affordable housing.

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The Legislature:

PRO: Passed HB 1590 to provide councilmanic authority for cities to raise a 1/10th of a cent sales tax to address housing affordability.

PRO: Passed HB 2343 to expand incentives for cities to adopt voluntary housing and development streamlining policies through grants and legal support.

PRO: Passed amendments to clarify HB 1406 from the 2019 session and extended the timeline to adopt a qualifying local tax.

PRO: Preserved local land use authority around housing.

PRO: Invested $160 million in affordable housing and homelessness.

CON: Failed to pass a comprehensive expansion of the Multifamily Tax Exemption program.


Other fact sheets

Shared revenues with cities: 2019-21 biennium

Lift the property tax cap


Legislative priority process

The AWC Legislative Priorities Committee meets multiple times per year to identify and recommend to the AWC Board of Directors which city issues should be legislative priorities. The committee comprises approximately 25 city officials from throughout the state. The AWC Board of Directors adopts the next year's legislative priorities at its fall meeting.


Federal priorities

The health and vitality of local economies are critical to a robust and dynamic national economy. Federal fiscal policies should enhance the ability of local elected officials to respond to needs at the local level. More


Access AWC’s online library of Legislative Bulletin and CityVoice news articles to search for issue updates by topic.

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