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Protection of basic services, stable transportation funding and consolidation of special districts top County’s 2012 state Legislative Agenda

Summary

Agenda focuses on clarity, efficiencies and adaptability

Story

King County will work with the Washington state Legislature on maintaining funding to services that protect vulnerable populations, providing flexibility in funding the repair and upkeep of County roads, and consolidation of some of the functions of two specialty districts. The King County Legislative Agenda was adopted today by the Metropolitan King County Council.

“A growing number of County residents are now accessing services and agencies that are facing devastating cuts in Olympia,” said Council Chair Larry Gossett. “This will be one of the most difficult legislative sessions ever, so it is vital that King County speak in a clear voice about our priorities regarding human services and transportation.”

“King County, like the state, has had to face a difficult budget reality over the last several years,” said Council Vice Chair Jane Hague. “It’s important that the County use coordinated strategies and alliances in order to promote a strong regional and statewide economy.”

“We successfully saved Metro Transit service for at least two more years, but we must continue the push to partner with the state legislature on long-term, stable funding for transit and other tools to recover our economy,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips, Chair of the Transportation, Economy, and Environment Committee. “Along with supporting a robust transit system, we will need the legislature’s help with the King County Aerospace Alliance, community health and human services, and gang violence prevention. Each are critical for the strong quality of life we need to keep and attract jobs, and grow our economy.”

Each year King County develops a State Legislative Agenda with the Council and the County Executive working together to decide on the positions that are most important to bring to the attention of the Washington State Legislature. For 2012, those issues include:

Health, Housing, and Human Services & Health Reform Implementation—The County wants to see Olympia continue to support funding for programs critical to communities such as food assistance, domestic violence prevention, housing and services for low income and homeless persons. As health care reform draws closer, the County is also calling on the Legislature to clarify their position on specific aspects of health care such as Community Health Needs Assessment and Community Benefit Structure.

“The state’s budget cuts may mean dramatic blows to the county's most basic services, like our Public Health Clinics,” said Councilmember Julia Patterson, Chair of the Council’s Budget Committee. “King County’s legislative agenda will help guide our work with the Legislature during the 2012 session as we address this reality.”

Resources for Transportation Needs – Funding, Tools & Flexibility for Transit & Roads—Last session, the Legislature gave the County the tools to adopt a limited congestion reduction charge to help maintain current levels of Metro Transit service. In 2012, King County will encourage the Legislature to follow the recommendations of the Connecting Washington Task Force, which emphasize the need for statewide investments. King County supports additional direct state support for local and regional needs, as well as local revenue tools to augment the state’s direct investment. One specific tool was included as part of the Alaskan Way Viaduct three-party agreement from January 2009, stating that King County is to be granted revenue authority in order to provide additional permanent transit capacity in the corridor.

Consolidation of Special Districts’ Governance into County Government—King County currently has two special districts responsible for oversight on specific issues: The King County Ferry District and the King County Flood Control District. The County Council sits as the Board of Supervisors for both bodies, which have the authority to approve the raising of revenue to support the districts through the use of a countywide property tax levy. The Legislature is responsible for the legislation creating the special districts; the County is asking the Legislature to allow the Council to consolidate certain aspects of the districts such as governance and oversight. The goal of the consolidation is to create efficiencies and savings that could translate to greater deployed services.

“After four years of successful Flood and Ferry District operations, the proposed consolidation would allow us to enhance services and continue our efforts in managing costs,” said Councilmember Joe McDermott, Chair of the King County Ferry District.

Policy Reforms and Resources for Gang Violence Prevention & Intervention—After investing $1.4 million in County funds to address gang violence, the County is calling on Olympia to investment in youth violence prevention programs to help redirect youth away from becoming involved in gangs and preserve programs that foster safe environments for young people. The County also supports reforming the law related to firearm possession by juveniles to allow for escalating penalties for those who have a record of unlawful possession charges.

“Gangs and gang violence are problems that cross the boundaries of local jurisdictions and require a state response. Intervention and prevention programs are critical to keeping our kids and communities safe and deserve to be funded,” said Councilmember Bob Ferguson, Chair of the Council’s Law, Justice, Health and Human Services Committee. “As the Legislature works to address the state’s serious budget challenges, I look forward to working collaboratively with our representatives in Olympia.”

King County Aerospace Alliance—Even with the adoption of a labor agreement that includes construction of the Boeing 737 MAX airplane in King County, the County is wants the Legislature to continue to partner with civic, industry, and education leaders to ensure that the infrastructure to keep these family-wage jobs in the region remain strong. Workforce training and government policies that allow aerospace companies, their suppliers, and their employees to thrive are imperative.

Preserve Existing Authority & Additional Local Revenue Options and Flexibility—Local governments need increased access to existing and new revenue tools in order to maintain and improve core services and quality of life in the face of decreasing support from the state and federal government. The County must both preserve its current revenue authority and gain additional flexibility within existing mechanisms. Counties also seek new councilmatic and voter-approved revenue tools to accommodate additional demands shifted to the local level.

The 60-day session of the Washington State Legislature started January 9.


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