Councilmember Godden left office on January 1, 2016.
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Seeing Red Ink

The Association of Washington Cities (AWC) held its annual Legislative Committee Meeting at the Doubletree Hotel in SeaTac Tuesday morning. Deciding on its legislative agenda is probably the most important thing that the AWC, which represents 281 state cities, does.

About 50 members of the association’s six subcommittees gathered for the almost day-long discussion. They weighed in on such issues as economic development, health care, land use, environmental stewardship and the fiscal health of cities.

When the group broke for lunch, there wasn’t much time for comparing notes on budgets – even though that certainly occupied the time around the ever-present coffee urns. It was a working lunch, with Jim Justin, Gov. Christine Gregoire’s legislative director, offering the governor’s perspective on the 2011 Legislative Session.

Justin presented, not just a gloomy picture, but a dismal one, at least from the perspective of the cities, home to the overwhelming majority of the state’s citizens. Said Justin, the latest estimate of the shortfall in the state’s budget is anywhere from $4.6 to $4.8 billion.

Justin put it into perspective, he said that, prior to the recession, the state’s annual budget was running around $32 billion. Over the last three years, revenue has tanked.  The 2010 budget was about $12 billion less – off about a third. What another $4.6 billion reduction would do to state resources is almost unthinkable.

As Justin told the AWC, the coming session of the Legislature will be “Budget, budget , budget.” He said that, while the governor hates across-the-board cuts, she enacted them when she heard the latest revenue projects in order to staunch the bleeding.

He said that the governor will base her budget on her six priorities. He listed them:  jobs, the economy, transportation, education, health care and natural resources.

Justin concluded, “We can’t do what we’ve been doing.” He added. “We’re going to have serious discussions about how to organize government.”