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AWC | Senate budget proposal jeopardizes local public safety and infrastructure funding

OLYMPIA — Combatting alcohol-related incidents in communities across Washington may become exponentially more difficult if the proposed State Senate budget prevails.

The proposed operating budget released last week transfers half of the remaining share of local taxes collected from liquor sales into the state general fund, leaving cities with far less public safety money.

“Every city in our state stands to lose funding for law enforcement officers and public safety activities” said Don Gerend, Sammamish City Councilmember and president of the Association of Washington Cities (AWC). “We know liquor consumption is felt most at the local level. Cities and towns take our public safety responsibility very seriously and are extremely worried about what this might mean for the 4.4 million residents in our communities. Fewer local police officers is not the answer, since we know that the privatization of liquor has increased pressures on our criminal justice system. The need is greater than ever before.”

The Senate proposal sweeps approximately $10 million annually from the local tax distribution to cities, at a time when liquor privatization has resulted in a quadrupling of retail outlets and added public safety burdens while increasing state revenues.

In contrast, voters voiced support for increased local public safety funding as part of citizen initiative I-1183 that passed last fall to privatize liquor sales.

Mike McCarty, chief executive officer of AWC, explained that liquor revenues have been shared by the state with local governments for 80 years. “Our association was founded at the end of Prohibition for the specific purpose of advocating for a share of liquor revenues to support public safety,” McCarty said.

In addition to the loss of liquor revenue, the proposed reduction of Public Works Trust Fund loans to local governments reduces critical funding for local infrastructure – infrastructure necessary to accommodate growth, protect the environment and promote economic development that benefits the entire state.

Building and updating local infrastructure, such as water and sewer systems, creates construction jobs and helps to attract and sustain jobs across our state over the long-term. Economic development does not happen without the infrastructure to support it.

“While we recognize the state needs to fund education and fill a significant budget gap, we can’t afford to bear the impacts on our streets, in our parks, and where our citizens shop,” said Gerend. “Collectively cities have been working with state legislators and the Governor for the past several years to share the impacts to the state budget, but taking the local public safety and infrastructure funds that cities rely on goes too far.”

 

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