By Jeremy Schwartz
Peninsula Daily News
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Meanwhile, Rep. Steve Tharinger of Sequim introduced a bill that eventually would even the split of state liquor fee revenue between the state general fund and Washington’s cities and counties.
Tharinger, along with State Sen. Jim Hargrove, D-Hoquiam, and State Rep. Kevin Van De Wege, D-Sequim, serve the 24th Legislative District, which comprises Clallam and Jefferson counties and a portion of Grays Harbor County.
In a Friday interview, Hargrove said he has spent nearly all of the past two weeks in Olympia during the Legislature’s special session working with Republican and Democratic budget writers from the House and Senate to close an estimated $1.2 billion gap between each chamber’s version of the state operating budget.
Hargrove could not offer many details on budget negotiations, saying, “There’s no resolution at this point in time.”
“My goal is to get it done in the 30 days of the special session,” Hargrove said.
The special session started May 13. It set to end in the middle of next week.
Rep. Tharinger said the House held only a handful of full floor votes this past week, though he said he and his colleagues have been told to be ready to return to Olympia at any minute this week to begin state budget debate and voting.
On a personal level, Tharinger said he introduced a bill Friday that would equalize, by the 2020-2021 biennium, the amount of revenue from liquor distributor and retailer fees between what the state keeps and the amount it redistributes to counties and cities.
A proviso included in the 2011-2013 budget capped the amount of liquor revenue counties and cities receive from the state at about $49.4 million, Tharinger said.
That’s a fixed amount that would not change even if total liquor revenues increase.
This proviso is set to expire June 30, the end of the current fiscal biennium, but Tharinger said he thinks it’s likely that the legislative budget writers will want to continue the proviso into the 2013-2015 budget.
“That’s why we’d like to have this bill to get us back over time and eliminate these provisos from taking money from local government,” Tharinger said.
The bill Tharinger is sponsoring, if approved, would send 50 percent of liquor revenue to the state general fund and 50 percent to cities and counties, with 40 percent to counties and 10 percent to cities and towns.
This shift, starting in 2015, would cost the state general fund an estimated $52 million over one biennium, Tharinger said, which is why the 50-50 split would be phased in from 65-35 over the next three biennia.
“Basically, everybody is looking for money, and the idea is to come up with a formula that everyone can live with,” Tharinger said, adding that the bill seems to have bipartisan support.
Additionally, Tharinger said he’s still working to ensure that a number of 2013-2015 budget provisos — which would expire in 2015 — he feels are important to the 24th District are in the final version of the budget, which must be approved by the final deadline of June 30.
“All of that will be [finalized] in the final days,” Tharinger said.
“But they’re all in position and ready to go.”
These provisos include one that would give more money from the state to sole community hospitals, which include Olympic Medical Center and public hospitals in Port Townsend and Forks, and a piece of language that would provide money for a special committee to study over the next two years the needs of the state’s growing older-than-65 population.
Reporter Jeremy Schwartz can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 5074, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.