Metropolitan King County Council
516 Third Ave., Rm. 1200
Seattle, WA 98104
Toll Free: 800-325-6165
Aug. 7, 2008
Board of Health calls on Legislature for stable, long-term financing for public health
Next step: recommendations on specific sources for local option fundingThe King County Board of Health today called on the State of Washington to provide an adequate, stable funding source for local public health programs, along with additional local financing options to meet needs that are unique to each county.
The resolution adopted unanimously at a special meeting of the board encourages cities in King County to pass similar legislation, and asks that cities and King County place public health funding at the top of their legislative agendas.
“Sustaining basic public health functions like providing immunizations to children and educating the public about disease outbreaks is a statewide challenge,” said Board of Health Chair Julia Patterson. “It is now time to reach out to other counties and create a united front for lobbying Olympia this winter.”
The budget for Public Health is $193 million, of which $31.8 million is supported by the King County general fund. However, with King County projecting a $86 million gap between revenues and expenses in its 2009 budget, Public Health is preparing for a reduction of at least $12 million in services in 2009, with more cuts likely in the following years if no long-term, stable funding solution is found.
When voters adopted Initiative 695 in 1999, they also repealed a major source of funding for public health in this state - the Motor Vehicle Excise Tax - and the state Legislature has not identified a permanent source of revenue to replace it, whether from state funds or some form of local option. Since then, local governments have backfilled the gap from their general funds, with some lesser, temporary funds from the state that haven't met the rising costs of providing critical public health services or the additional decline of federal funding.
Staff of Public Health – Seattle & King County will present the Board of Health next month with the level of funding needed to most effectively deliver services. This estimate will include the resources needed for Public Health to complete its operational master plan to prioritize services and determine how best to organize the department with limited resources.
“The irony of this budget crisis is that in economic downturns, when governments reduce funding for public health, that is the time people rely most on the services that public health provides,” said Patterson.