Tri-City officials will have more flexibility in how they pay for ambulance services with a bill now waiting for Gov. Chris Gregoire's signature.
The bill removes a portion of a state law that requires cities to use a set amount of general tax money for ambulance operations.
Pasco, Kennewick and Richland asked local legislators to offer the new law.
Pasco City Manager Gary Crutchfield said cities need the change to maintain necessary services. "We need the flexibility," he said.
Pasco is currently required to use at least $420,000 in general tax money for utilities. Richland's requirement is the highest of the Tri-Cities at $550,000, while Kennewick has the least at $336,700.
City utilities like water and sewer operate separately and don't use general tax dollars, Crutchfield said. Utility fees pay for those services.
The new law would allow the ambulance utility to operate the same way if a city council chooses, Crutchfield said.
Even if Pasco stopped using general tax money for ambulance services, he said, the monthly utility rate would likely increase by only $2. The current fee is $3.60. Any changes in the utility rate would first be considered in a public hearing.
Pasco will consider the option while determining its 2012 budget, Crutchfield said. He said it's not clear yet what cuts the Legislature will make that will decrease city revenue, which could affect whether Pasco decides to reduce general tax dollars going for ambulance services.
The House released its proposed operating budget for the 2011-2013 biennium last week, and the Senate's version is expected sometime this week.