Skip to main content
King County logo

News

King County Executive
Dow Constantine


In biennial budget, Executive Constantine calls for investments in transit, human services and environment, urges Legislature to act on tax reform

Summary

Executive Constantine's budget invests in Metro Transit, human services, and other important programs that reflect the values of King County residents. Supported primarily by property taxes, General Fund revenues continue to be in adequate to fund basic services. Joined by leaders from counties across Washington, the Executive called on the Legislature to reform local government revenue sources that support public health, public safety, and other key services.

Story

King County Budget in Brief 2017-2018

View the King County Budget in Brief 2017-2018.

Download (PDF)

In an address to the Metropolitan King County Council, King County Executive Dow Constantine unveiled his proposed $11.3 billion, two-year budget, which again maintains costs below the rate of population and inflation.

At a time when national opinion polls indicate strong disillusionment with the political process, Executive Constantine portrayed the performance of King County government as a powerful antidote to pervasive cynicism.

"Here in King County—the largest jurisdiction in the state, running the largest transit agency, in one of the fastest growing regions of the country—we’re showing how to do it right," Executive Constantine said to the King County Council. "We’re showing strong returns on investments. We’re demonstrating innovations and inventions. And we’re reinforcing a deep and enduring commitment to make government work for the people."

Executive Constantine’s 2017-2018 budget includes:

  • Prevention and intervention to ensure people receive behavioral health care quickly and effectively. Initiatives include a behavioral health care urgent walk-in clinic pilot, and next-day urgent care for people in crisis.
  • The first full budget for Best Starts for Kids, a voter-approved levy that focuses on investing in the health and development of families, children, and young adults.
  • Transit investments, including 300,000 hours of additional bus service in the next two years, reducing congestion, and greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. The Executive’s budget would fund cameras on buses, security officers, human resources, and other functions necessary to hire and train new operators. It continues investments to transition from older diesel buses to an all-hybrid and electric fleet by the end of 2018, improving air quality and meeting climate change goals.
  • Innovative financing for energy efficiency projects that pay for themselves with utility bill savings, and extension of this option to city partners in the award-winning King County-Cities Climate Collaboration.
  • Continued investment in protecting farms, forest, and clean water as our population grows.
  • Support for a new Immigrant and Refugee Commission and coordination of organizations, activities, and services to increase opportunities for immigrants.
  • Expanding recreational opportunities for youth in underserved areas, and expanding programming similar to the White Center Teen Program to Skyway and East Federal Way.

Executive calls on Legislature to act on local tax reform

King County’s General Fund primarily supports criminal justice and other functions required by the state. About 59 percent of net General Fund revenues come from property taxes. The balance is comprised of sales tax and other sources.

In 2007, legislators reinstated Tim Eyman’s I-747, which had been tossed out by the state Supreme Court. The law arbitrarily limited revenue growth in most property taxes to 1 percent annually. The value of new construction is added to the tax base, which amounts to about 0.5 percent to 2.0 percent depending on the economy.

budget-revenues-expenses-2017-2018

Because property tax is limited below the rate of population growth and inflation, the General Fund is chronically stressed. Last year, about 37,000 people moved to King County, adding to the demands for transit, behavioral and mental health programs, public safety, and other services.

Over the last few months, Executive Constantine worked with the Office of Performance, Strategy, and Budget, county departments, and elected officials to balance the $1.6 billion General Fund budget. Through a mix of revenue changes, efficiencies, and spending reductions, Executive Constantine resolved a $22.4 million shortfall.

Program cuts and service reductions in this budget include:

  • Reductions in the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
  • Closing the work release facility and electronic home detention programs by Jan. 1, 2018.
  • Eliminating inmate booking at the Maleng Regional Justice Center in Kent as of Jan. 1, 2018.
  • Eliminating the King County Sheriff’s Office air support and marine units by Jan. 1, 2018.

"We will do everything we can to mitigate the impact of these cuts, but let there be no mistake—unless the Legislature fixes the problem, these reductions will only get worse over time," said Executive Constantine. "And local governments across the state face the identical situation."

County leaders from across the state echo the Executive's call to action

Local governments across Washington face similar budget challenges caused by the 1 percent cap. 

"Executive Constantine is a respected colleague. Like me, he takes a realistic approach to the challenges facing county government," said Pierce County Executive Pat McCarthy. "The population in the Puget Sound region continues to grow by leaps and bounds, and even though inflation isn’t skyrocketing it still has a detrimental effect when our resources are arbitrarily limited by a 1 percent cap. We want to live within our means, but both Executive Constantine and I understand it’s unrealistic to expect local governments to provide the services our citizens need when our fiscal hands are tied.”

"We urge the Legislature to give us the tools we need to meet the growing demand for our services," said Snohomish County Executive Dave Somers. "We don't think there is one solution to the funding challenges, but we want to work with the Legislature to find greater flexibility across multiple fronts. Snohomish County is one of the fastest growing counties in the state of Washington, and we must be prepared for our future growth."

“In every region of the state, we’re hearing the same thing from local government: we must establish a reasonable property tax cap and fix the arbitrary cap of 1 percent,” said Eric Johnson, Executive Director of the Washington State Association of Counties. “This has been the top of our legislative agenda for years, and now we’re seeing the consequences of legislative inaction. Across Washington, communities are experiencing difficult cuts in vital programs and services.”

The Metropolitan King County Council plans a number of public hearings on the Executive Proposed Budget and will adopt a final King County Budget in November.


Video




Relevant links


Quotes

Here in King County—the largest jurisdiction in the state, running the largest transit agency, in one of the fastest growing regions of the country—we’re showing how to do it right. We’re showing strong returns on investments. We’re demonstrating innovations and inventions. And we’re reinforcing a deep and enduring commitment to make government work for the people.

Dow Constantine, King County Executive

Executive Constantine is a respected colleague. Like me, he takes a realistic approach to the challenges facing county government. The population in the Puget Sound region continues to grow by leaps and bounds, and even though inflation isn’t skyrocketing it still has a detrimental effect when our resources are arbitrarily limited by a 1 percent cap. We want to live within our means, but both Executive Constantine and I understand it’s unrealistic to expect local governments to provide the services our citizens need when our fiscal hands are tied.

Pat McCarthy, Pierce County Executive

We urge the Legislature to give us the tools we need to meet the growing demand for our services. We don't think there is one solution to the funding challenges, but we want to work with the Legislature to find greater flexibility across multiple fronts. Snohomish County is one of the fastest growing counties in the state of Washington, and we must be prepared for our future growth.

Dave Somers, Snohomish County Executive

In every region of the state, we’re hearing the same thing from local government: we must establish a reasonable property tax cap and fix the arbitrary cap of 1 percent. This has been the top of our legislative agenda for years, and now we’re seeing the consequences of legislative inaction. Across Washington, communities are experiencing difficult cuts in vital programs and services.

Eric Johnson, Executive Director, Washington State Association of Counties

For more information, contact:

Alex Fryer, Executive Office, 206-477-7966


King County Executive
Dow Constantine
Dow constantine portrait

Read the Executive's biography