StoryMetropolitan King County Council Chair Dow Constantine and Councilmember Larry Gossett, chair of the Council’s Budget and Fiscal Management Committee, today praised the Washington State Legislature for its efforts to help counties respond to the current funding crisis.
The Legislature approved SB 5433, a measure to create and modify local-option funding mechanisms.
“By providing counties with flexibility on funding, this legislation lets King County prioritize to avoid immediate cuts to the successful Drug Court and Mental Health Court programs,” said Constantine. “Both these programs have been a critical part of King County’s success in providing alternatives to incarceration. Our region is now making critical decisions about future jail space needs, and these tools enable us to get people out of lives of crime rather than simply warehousing them over and over in expensive jail cells.”
“I appreciate the Legislature’s hard work to help King County and other Washington counties maintain programs during these tough economic times,” said Gossett. “I was disappointed that some provisions of the bill that would have helped us provide key county services now enjoyed by residents were eliminated during consideration.”
Among the bill’s provisions:
• It provides temporary flexibility in how counties spend funds collected through the one-tenth of 1 percent Mental Health and Drug Treatment sales tax.
• It authorizes a voter-approved $20 vehicle license fee to fund transit.
• It authorizes a 7.5 cent property tax levy in King County to fund transit projects.
• It provides funding flexibility in the use of funds raised through the .3 percent public safety sales tax (not currently used by King County) and through voter-approved levy lid lifts.
“I also want to praise the Legislature for helping to address King County Metro’s projected $100 million sales tax deficit in 2010,” said Constantine. “The Council will carefully consider placing the $20 vehicle license fee before the voters and will look at the other funding options. Stable funding for Metro would help to avoid severe cuts to bus service at a time when demand is high and many folks don't have good alternatives.”
“My Council district would likely bear a disproportionate share of transit cuts, so I am pleased to receive help with Metro funding,” said Gossett. “Good public transit service is essential to maintaining the mobility and economic vitality of our urban communities.”