Council member praises Legislature's support for County finances
Bill addresses funding gap
Metropolitan King County Council Chair Dow Constantine praised the efforts of state lawmakers seeking to grant King County the flexibility it needs to address financial challenges while assisting in the reform of King County government.
“I appreciate the efforts of legislators in Olympia to address King County's funding crisis,” said Constantine. “With a tax base narrowed by years of statewide initiatives, and responsibilities broadened by decades of federal and state mandates, we need new approaches to protect major public health and safety programs for the nearly two million Washingtonians who call King County home.”
House Bill 2249 would allow existing County funds to be used for the highest priority needs, and add provisions to encourage the long-sought annexation of unincorporated urban areas into cities. It would also provide some temporary funding sources for King County services during the current economic downturn and require that future reforms be evaluated through a state performance audit of county government.
The bill was introduced by State Rep. Ross Hunter of Medina; a similar bill has been introduced in the state Senate by Sen. Debbie Regala.
“I am a longtime advocate of rigorous performance measurements, and have sponsored successful legislation to expand their use throughout King County government,” said Constantine. “I believe we need to fundamentally rethink King County government to make sure we realize maximum value for every taxpayer dollar, and this legislation will help us accomplish that important task. When we emerge on the other side of this recession, King County must be leaner, smarter, and more effective in meeting the needs of citizens in the 21st Century.”
Included in House Bill 2249 are provisions to:
—extend by two years the deadline for King County cities to qualify for an existing state sales tax credit to help pay for the extra cost of annexing unincorporated county neighborhoods;
—mandate a performance audit of King County government by the State Auditor to measure the success of restructuring efforts;
—allow funds collected through the existing King County real estate excise tax to be used to parks maintenance and operations (use is now limited to the purchase of open space properties);
—permit King County to assess a previously-authorized local-option sales tax by vote of the County Council for a three-year period (2010 to 2012) only. The bill provides that the proceeds be shared with King County cities; the tax rate would revert to the existing rate no later than the end of 2012;
—alter King County's share of the sales tax collected in cities that have declared potential annexation areas in adjacent unincorporated areas to help pay for services until annexation can be completed;
—grant King County the same ability to assess a local utility tax as is already available to cities – to help sustain local services in unincorporated areas.