Members pledge to produce spending plan that meets the needs of County residents
StoryThe budget leaders of the Metropolitan King County Council today said the choices that must be made to close the $60 million shortfall in the 2011 King County Budget will be felt throughout the region. After cutting $150 million from King County’s general fund budget in the last two years, they said all that is left are decisions that will impact all county services and the delivery of those services.
“In this difficult economy, Executive Constantine has presented us with a thoughtful budget that focuses on the services that by law we must provide,” said Budget Chair Julia Patterson. “But the sad reality is that the choices we make in this budget could mean a resident in unincorporated King County will be waiting longer for a King County Sheriff to respond to a crime scene and pregnant women in some of our poorer communities will have nowhere to go for prenatal services.”
The Executive’s proposed $5 billion budget includes a $612 million General Fund, more than three-fourths of which is targeted for law, justice and public safety services.
Councilmember Patterson said the Council will review the Executive Budget Proposal in three separate panels:
• Councilmember Kathy Lambert will serve as Vice Chair of the Budget Leadership Team and direct the Health and Human Services Panel, which will assess the Executive’s proposed plan for public health agencies and the future of human service funding.
“With our continuing economic shortfall, the county will experience growing austerity in its budget diet and the cuts will become more noticeable. We will work with our reduced tax revenue to cover as many core services and top priorities as possible,” said Lambert. “The county’s local government responsibility is an important issue I will focus on throughout the budget process. People living in unincorporated areas depend on King County for local government services, such as law enforcement, and we have the responsibility to provide local services for these residents, particularly in the rural area.”
• Councilmember Reagan Dunn will lead the Law and Justice Panel in its evaluation of the proposed budgets for the King County Sheriff, the King County Prosecutor and the District and Superior Courts.
“The cuts to our law enforcement system are deep. I don’t like seeing the safety of the community on the chopping block and I will work with my colleagues to find ways to restore the worst cuts,” said Dunn. “This budget must start us on a path toward more sustainable budgets. Unless we can limit the growth of King County government to the rate of inflation, we will be here year after year cutting our most important programs.”
• Councilmember Larry Gossett will chair the General Government Panel, which will be responsible for reviewing the budgets for several agencies including the County Executive and County Council.
“I will be looking very closely at the salaries and benefits of our King County workforce. Our workers have made great sacrifices over the past couple of years during this economic recession while at the same time doing more work with less resources as well as sharing the burden of the increased costs of our healthcare system. Already over 500 workers have agreed to waive the negotiated 2 percent cost of living adjustments (COLAs) for 2011 and it is the Council’s hope that the negotiations between the Executive and our unions will result in outcomes that will help us in 2011,” said Gossett. “There are no easy answers to this economic crisis and King County’s budget. While we are asking everyone to share the pain, it will be the poor, the disenfranchised, women, children and people of color who will disproportionately carry the burden of dwindling revenues and cuts in services.”
The panels will begin their review of the Executive Proposed Budget on Tuesday, October 5.
“In the next nine weeks, our work on the budget must include deciding on painful cuts to the safety and health of all residents in King County,” said Councilmember Patterson. “Everyone needs to be aware of the choices that must be made. Everyone should be prepared to share that pain.”
Starting Wednesday, September 29, Councilmember Patterson and the Budget Leadership Team will host four evening public hearings on the 2011 Executive Proposed Budget:
• Wednesday, September 29 – King County Courthouse, County Council Chambers, 10th Flr, 516 Third Avenue, Room 1200, Seattle
• Tuesday, October 5 - Bellevue City Council Chambers, 450 110th Ave. NE, Bellevue
• Tuesday, October 12 – Mt. Si High School, Wildcat Court, 8651 Meadowbrook Way SE, Snoqualmie
• Tuesday, October 19 - Maleng Regional Justice Center, Jury Assembly Room 2E, 401 4th Avenue North, Kent
All meetings begin at 6:30 p.m. Day-after coverage of the public hearings will be available both online and on King County TV, seen on Comcast and Broadstripe Cable Channel 22. You can also sign up to follow the deliberations through the Council’s 2011 Budget Blog, Facebook and Twitter.