In a briefing this morning on the status of the city's legislative agenda in Olympia, city lobbyists Jasmin Weaver and Marco Lowe told council members the city budget could get a boost from unanticipated revenues this year, part of the approximately $57 million local governments will get in previously unpaid state taxes. Last week, the city announced midyear cuts of around $20 million.

Earlier this month, the state department of revenue announced that nearly 9,000 businesses had agreed to pay overdue taxes immediately, rather than fighting the judgments in court or paying late taxes with interest over the next four years. The size of the windfall, a total of $321 million, surprised state regulators.

A cautionary note to those predicting a massive windfall for Seattle (which obviously has more business revenues than other parts of the state): It's actually impossible to know how much the city will get at this point, because the state is still poring over where the businesses that failed to pay their taxes are located. If Seattle businesses disproportionately failed to pay their taxes, Seattle will get more money; if Seattle businesses paid more than businesses in other areas, we'll get less.

City finance director Glen Lee says that although a back-of-the-envelope calculation might result in a multi-million-dollar bonus, it could also end up being much less than that. While revenues are generally proportional to the number of businesses in an area, "amnesty programs tend to be pretty lumpy," Lee says. "If these refunds were concentrated in a couple areas of the state, we would receive less than what you would ordinarily expect."

The city should know how much it will receive in amnesty revenues "by the end of the month," Weaver said.
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