Snowmobile Account Robbed by our Legislature
Posted05/03/16 at 10:49 PM

The recent legislative session didn't go well for snowmobilers and your WSSA Legislative Team has prepared the following information:
 
The legislature adjourned late Tuesday night, March 29th, by passing the supplemental operating budget that transfers $25,000 of the snowmobile account and $25,000 of the winter recreation program account to fund the Northwest Avalanche Center (NWAC) for an additional forecaster to help fill gaps in coverage, increase weather station maintenance, and expand the forecast period into the shoulder seasons.
 

The proposed House budget came out February 25th funding the NWAC with $4,000 from the snowmobile account, $3,000 from the winter recreation program, and $43,000 from the state’s general fund. The proposed Senate budget came out March 11th with $25,000 coming from the snowmobile and winter recreation program accounts each. The WSSA and the NWAC both strongly opposed this funding from the dedicated snowmobile account and requested the funding be provided from the general account.  WSSA and the NWAC worked together strongly opposing the Senate budget.  Our members worked diligently along with our leadership and lobbyists by contacting their legislators to oppose this budget.  We are not opposed to the NWAC receiving additional funding from the general account, but we are concerned that the legislature’s action has the potential to undermine a longstanding working relationship with the NWAC.

The House and Senate chairs of the Recreation committees, Rep Blake and Sen. Pearson, strongly opposed the Senate budget and lobbied the key fiscal legislators negotiating the budget against it. State Parks also opposed the Senate budget.



THEN HOW CAN THIS HAPPEN?!!! BEHIND CLOSED DOORS

The compromise budget was released Tuesday, March 29th to the Senate and House members after the House and Senate negotiators finished up their negotiations to complete the budget. Most of the legislators didn’t even get a chance to read the budget bill! Sen. Brian Dansel, R-Republic, voted against the budget because it was released less than 24 hours before the vote and said, “We’re voting on something, we have no idea what’s in it!”

HOW CAN THEY STEAL OUR OWN DEDICATED FUNDS?!!! LEGALLY AND WITH PLANS TO STEAL FUNDS FROM DEDICATED FUNDS AGAIN NEXT YEAR

The legislature steals funds legally from dedicated accounts in every budget. For example, in 2015 the Senate Republican budget plan for 2015-17 delivered on their promise to cover the court-mandated education costs (McCleary decision) without raising taxes with a 2015 budget proposal transferring $380 million from dedicated accounts to the state general fund! The final 2015 budget ended up transferring $180 million.

This year the legislature has used the same approach, as the House conceded to the Senate budget again by transferring $29.4 million from dedicated accounts to the general fund! AND, the legislative 4-year budget plan includes transfers of $68 million FY 2018 and $97 million FY 2019!!! Rep. Liz Pike, R-Camas, also voted no on the budget because it takes money from the Public Works Assistance Account, stating, “Probably the most distressing part about that is that this is a sign of what’s going to happen over the next several biennium,” Pike said. “We’re going to continue to sweep those revenues.”  The House Democrats also contributed to the need for the transfers by originally seeking a spending increase of $467 million while the Senate Republicans wanted a $49 million increase.

WHAT CAN WE DO TO STOP THIS FROM HAPPENING AGAIN? FIGHT BACK

We fight back to prevent it from happening again with strong lobbying efforts by our lobbyists, WSSA leadership and our members; plus the use of our votes and PAC contributions for the 2016 election. We also specifically challenge those that negotiated the budget as well as all other legislators. Last year we got the legislature to pass HB 1738 that corrected the withholding of our fuel tax refunds by refunding the new fuel taxes fully to the snowmobile account and by also fully restoring the 2003 and 2005 motor vehicle fuel tax refunds to the snowmobile account in July 1, 2031.

WHAT IS THE NEXT STEP? WSSA LEGISLATIVE COMMITTEE MEETING AND RECOMMENDATIONS

The WSSA Legislative committee is going to set up a brainstorming session to provide the Board with a specific plan to implement between now and January 9, 2017, when the next biennial budget session commences. We already have many ideas to prevent this from happening again.

ACTION:

1.If you have ideas or suggestions that you would like to have considered, please send them to Dan Fallstrom, WSSA Legislative Chair, at dan.fallstrom@wssa.us.  

2. Please convey your disappointment and frustration with the legislature’s action of stealing funds from the dedicated snowmobile account to your legislators.

3. For those legislators who supported NOT stealing from the dedicated snowmobile account, please thank them and let them know we need their continued support on this issue.

And for those who took the time to convey the earlier message to your legislators – thank you.

Best regards,  Terry

Terry Kohl | 206.850.6030 | terrykohl88@gmail.com.

 
 
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