City lobbyists: are they worth the investment?

KEPR is always staying on top of your taxpayer dollars. We looked into how your money is spent to bring more money to our cities. Is it a worthy return on the investment?

It's the big decisions that happen in Olympia. Hundreds of miles from your home. Where lawmakers decide how to spend your tax dollars. And while the state wrestles with the deficit, each of the Tri-Cities pays people to give input. They say hiring state lobbyists is vital to saving money.

"Everyone's at risk. Either they're going to raise taxes, those sorts of things. Everybody is watching," said Pasco City Manager Gary Crutchfield.

Gary Crutchfield is the city manager for Pasco. He says he communicates daily with Pasco's lobbyist in Olympia. Crutchfield says you have to spend money to get money.

"We've accomplished more in eight years with a lobbyist than the 22 years without one," added Crutchfield.

Pasco shells out 40 grand a year for a state lobbyist. Just this year, the lobbyist is credited with warding off a proposed law that would've stopped Pasco from using its hotel tax for TRAC. That keeps $200,000 in the city's pocket yearly. Pasco also pays a federal lobbyist 60-thousand a year. That investment is credited with a grant worth nearly three-quarters of a million for the Lewis Street overpass.
Richland and Kennewick no longer have reps on Capitol Hill. They focus exclusively on state lobbyists who helped increase the urban growth boundary south of I-82.

"Ultimately, having a return on the dollar for having a lobbyist in Washington D.C. - just, it doesn't pan out," said Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg.

Richland credits its state lobbyist with helping raise awareness for the Duportail Bridge project. And for allowing the city to maintain your city services without raising taxes. It's a matter of keeping your interest alive with the decision-makers.

Officials also tell us they hope state lobbyists can advocate to keep the liquor tax coming back to the city level.Last year, the liquor tax was reduced.