Published on Apr 29, 2019

2019 session adjourns on time – a solid session for cities

Contact: Candice Bock

The 105-day, 2019 legislative session adjourned on schedule Sunday, April 28 with a flurry of last-minute bills. Legislators worked nearly round the clock during the last few days to finalize budgets and line up support.

While the session has ended, action will continue for the next 20 days while the Governor reviews and signs or vetoes the various bills that have been sent to his desk. (For more about when the Governor will sign a bill, go to the bill action webpage.)

Budget highlights

The Legislature passed transportation and capital budgets with bipartisan support. This type of support isn’t unusual because both budgets fund popular projects. This year’s capital budget also provides significant funding for behavioral health facilities to help the state address its struggling mental health system. The capital budget also received a boost from an increase in the hazardous substance tax (SB 5993) that allowed more funding for stormwater and other cleanup programs. If you are curious about how your city’s capital budget request fared, the capital budget summary has an easy-to-read list.

The operating budget was more complicated. As we reported at the beginning of session, Democratic leaders estimated a deficit of around $3.5 billion to meet maintenance level expenses and cover necessary new costs including behavioral health and state collective bargaining agreements. In the end, a boost from a positive revenue forecast, as well as tax increases, brought them to a total budget of about $52 billion. For a more thorough summary, see our budget summary article.

The main tax increases are:

  • Graduated REET (SB 5998) that raises around $243 million;
  • State B&O tax increase on certain businesses. HB 2167 raises the rate on large financial institutions and generates about $133 million. HB 2158 raises the rate on certain business to fund higher education and work force training, among other things;
  • Eliminating tax preferences for some businesses; and
  • Increasing and stabilizing the hazardous waste tax (SB 5993).

Additionally, a couple of other major policy pieces passed in order to make way for the final budget adoption: I-1000 reinstating affirmative action and HB 5313 addressing local school levy authority.

Cities have a solid session

The 2019 session ended with some good news for cities. Highlights include:

  • Preservation of state-city shared revenues,
  • Full funding of 19 Basic Law Enforcement Academy classes per year,
  • Passage of HB 1406 with new affordable housing funding, and
  • Increased stormwater grant funding.

We also managed to turn some negatives into positives by pushing back and negotiating to protect local decision-making authority over housing density zoning and micro-mobility transportation uses like electric scooters.

The most disappointing aspect of the session is the continued sweep of the Public Work Trust Fund – the final operating budget swept an additional $160 million out of the fund for education funding. It further diverted funds to specific projects, leaving only $85 million for competitive loan applications. This is particularly disappointing given that the legislature had record revenue and raised additional revenue, but still felt that they needed to sweep these critical infrastructure funds for other purposes.

What’s next?

This Legislative Bulletin is full of information on bills that passed in the last week of session, and a run down of the capital, transportation, and operating budgets. We will post our full 2019 Session Recap Bulletin on May 20. After that, we will resume our monthly interim Bulletin schedule.

You can register now for a live webinar Session recap on May 29 where we will share more about what happened during the 2019 session and look ahead to 2020.

Now is also the time to start making plans for how you will connect with your legislators during the interim. Legislative advocacy is a year-round effort and the next few months are the best time for your city to build stronger relationships with your local legislators. Invite them out for coffee or ask them to come to a council meeting and share their perspective on the 2019 session. Thank them for their hard work and support for cities – but don’t forget to ask them why there was so much legislative interest in pre-empting local decision-making, and what it will take for the legislature to stop sweeping the Public Works Trust Fund.

 

Legislative advocacy is a year-round effort and the next few months are the best time for your city to build stronger relationships with your local legislators.

By building your relationship during the interim, your legislator will have a better understanding of your city’s needs, which can yield better results in the 2020 session.

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