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Monday, October 12, 2009

Under I-1033, Spokane County would face erosion in basic public services. An analysis of historical revenue data from the Spokane County Auditor’s Office shows the initiative would have cost the county about $105 million in general fund revenues, had it been in effect from 1996 to 2008.

The graph below illustrates the annual impact. Under the initiative, Spokane County would have lost $16.6 million in 2008 alone.

To put that in perspective, in Spokane County $16.6 million was more than the combined general fund expenditures on the District Court ($5.8 million), the Superior Court ($6.6 million), and the county medical examiner ($1.4 million) in 2008. In relation to other services, $16.6 million was equivalent to half of the general fund expenditures for the Sheriff’s Office ($33.2 million), 90 percent of the combined budgets of the county prosecutor and public defender ($18.8 million), and 85 percent of all general fund spending on county jails ($19.6 million).

Under I-1033, 2009 would form the base year for future county budgets in Washington. However, the current recession has caused serious revenue shortfalls in Spokane County and throughout Washington. To balance the 2009 budget, Spokane County officials have already used about $3.4 million in budget reserves, enacted another $3 million in spending cuts, and instituted a hiring freeze that eliminated 56 county government positions. But despite these actions, the county currently faces a projected $12.5 million budget shortfall in 2010.* If enacted, I-1033 would make it impossible for Spokane County to restore services to pre-recession levels.

Editor’s Note on Methodology: There has been much debate about which revenue sources would be subject to the population-growth-plus-inflation cap under I-1033. For this analysis, we assumed that general fund revenue -- including general fund tax revenues, revenues from permits and licenses, and revenues derived from charges for government services -- would have been subject to the I-1033 limit. It is important to note that expanding the scope of revenues subject to the I-1033 limit would substantially increase the estimates of annual revenue losses as well as expand the scope of county services negatively impacted under the initiative.

* Jim Camden, "Budget woes may force Holmberg's closer," The Spokesman-Review, August 4, 2009.

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