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When I took office in 2010, the County's annual budget had been increasing by about 6 percent each year.

By working with our employees and unions to reduce costs, we've helped the cost of growth of providing County services to just 3.3 percent per year - roughly matching the rate of population growth plus inflation.

Even as the demand for services increased as our population grew, and the costs of goods continue to rise with inflation, we've managed to reduce our operational costs without sacrificing quality.

Source: 2015-2016 budget speech

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Decreasing Employee Healthcare Costs

In my 2017-2018 budget, we had a 0 percent increase in payments for employee healthcare.

We’ve managed to decrease our healthcare costs while improving the health of our workforce.

One of the ways we achieved this goal was through Healthy Incentives, our employee wellness program that received Harvard’s Innovations in American Government Award.

Harvard said that both public- and private-sector organizations could learn from our innovative approach to working with represented employees to achieve a shared goal of reducing healthcare costs while improving the health of our employees. 

Increasing Efficiency in Capital Projects

We’ve fundamentally transformed many of internal processes to make them more efficient, responsive and accessible, which has decreased our costs and improved customer satisfaction.

Our Wastewater Treatment Division made its contracting process more efficient, saving millions of taxpayer dollars on infrastructure projects.

  • Reduced the amount of staff time it takes process bids submitted by contractors.
  • Increased the number of firms that compete for contracts, which has made bidding process more competitive and, therefore, providing us with less expensive options.
  • Reduced the amount of time it takes to complete capital projects, which avoids paying more as the result of inflation.

We’ve also made it possible for smaller contractors – including those owned by people or color or people who are members of the LGBTQ community – to compete for contracts.

  • The contract still goes to the organization that puts in the strongest bid. The only difference is that now we have more competitive bids to choose from. 

Reducing Costs While Improving Quality


A few years ago, the staff in our jails had an average of 70 inmates who were on 24-hour suicide prevention checks, costing millions of dollars in overtime. It was also ineffective because the staff was only monitoring the inmates who were at most risk rather than providing the proper clinical intervention.

Our jail staff partnered with Public Health to focus on ways to address specific risks and needs for each inmate who entered the facility to better identify exactly which inmates would benefit from prevention checks.

We reduced the number of inmates under suicide by 90 percent – from a daily average of 70 down to 7 – which reduced overtime expenses and provided our staff with more time to focus on providing treatment to those inmates who need the most help.

Leveraging Existing Resources with ORCA LIFT

Best-Run Government: Using Existing Resources to Deliver More Value from King County Executive on Vimeo.

When we launched ORCA LIFT, the nation’s leading reduced-fare program for passengers who earn a lower income, we leveraged existing resources to both avoid additional costs and to ensure that it helped more people in our community.

Rather than the tradition approach of establishing a new division and making the new cards available only at Metro or another government facility, we tapped into the same network of community partners we created during the early years of the Affordable Care Act – the same network that helped 200,000 King County residents sign up for insurance.

As a result, people can sign up at more than 40 locations throughout King County – colleges, nonprofits, food banks, human service providers, health clinics and elsewhere. By making it possible for people to sign up for important services at one convenient location, we’ve reduced the amount of time people waste traversing the region to enroll in programs and more time at work or school, and more time with their families.

Our innovative approach to enrollment has been a success. Last year, nearly 5 million boardings were taken with ORCA LIFT cards. And those who have signed for a card are taking transit more often, indicating greater productivity.

Integrating Transit Agencies to Deliver the Most Service for Each Dollar

During my two years as the Chair of Sound Transit, I made it a priority to better integrate service delivered by King County Metro and Sound Transit to create a more seamless, regional transit system.

As a result, we’re now able to deliver more transit service for each dollar spent.

The improved integration helped us set a new record for bus, light rail and commuter rail ridership last year – nearly 150 million trips in 2016.

The Seattle area now leads the nation in ridership growth compared to the largest metro areas in the United States.

Our successful Sound Transit 3 campaign will ensure our region’s continued prosperity even as our population grows by 1 million people. 

King County Executive
Dow Constantine
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Read the Executive's biography