Adopted 2010 Legislative Agenda includes request for long-term funding for public transit, assisting county residents in obtaining flood insurance
As the state Legislature prepares for its 2010 session, one of its priorities must be to provide revenue options that allow counties across the state to support public safety and human service programs, according to the state legislative agenda unanimously adopted today by the Metropolitan King County Council.
“The state mandates that counties provide a number of regional services, such as the Sheriff and Public Health, which are extremely important in the day-to-day lives of county residents,” said Council Chair Bob Ferguson. “With public safety services in jeopardy from a structural budget problem and the threat of flooding in the Green River Valley, we look forward to cooperating with state officials to address these challenges in 2010.”
“I hope that any agenda pursued by the Legislature will promote a dual use for the BNSF Corridor on the Eastside,” said King County Council Vice Chair Jane Hague. “With the Wilburton Tunnel gone, we need to find a way to connect northern and southern segments in a way that allows for dual use along the entire corridor.”
Counties were created as a governmental subdivision of the state of Washington to provide public safety through the sheriff, justice through the prosecutor and the courts, and basic health and life safety through the public-health department. All Washington counties are experiencing shortfalls from a financing structure that provides revenues only from the property tax and sales tax – fewer sources than those provided to cities.
“King County is faced with a growing number of challenges, including the increased potential for flooding, rising healthcare costs, and significant cuts to transit services,” said Councilmember Julia Patterson. “Although we are making strides to address this diverse range of issues, we must call on the state Legislature to give us the tools and flexibility we need to protect the health and safety of our residents and provide them with the services they expect and deserve.”
“Given the difficult economic crisis facing all levels of government, King County hopes that the Washington state Legislature will protect the county’s public health and mental health funding sources,” said Councilmember Larry Gossett.
Among the actions called for in King County’s 2010 State Legislative Agenda are:
• Local option unincorporated utility tax – Give counties the option of adopting a utility tax in unincorporated communities with which counties can fund criminal justice and local services.
• Long Term Transit Funding – Provide the County with a mid and long-term funding solution for transit, consistent with the work of the Joint Transportation Committee’s Study of Implementing Alternative Transportation Funding Methods.
• Access to Flood Insurance – Adopt legislation to assist residents and businesses currently located in flood plains to obtain flood insurance.
• County Bridge Tolling Authority –Allow counties to build and maintain toll bridges, similar to the authority currently granted to cities and towns. Short of that authority, King County supports specific authorization to toll a new South Park Bridge.
• Mental Health Treatment Funding - Protect current funding for mental health services and substance abuse treatment.
• Maintain Current Public Health Funding Support From The State – In the face of severe cuts to public health by local governments, the Legislature should maintain current levels of state funding for public health services.
“One part of the package I am encouraged by is the product stewardship framework legislation that will help reduce waste and extend the life of our Cedar Hills Landfill,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert. “An especially important piece of that is the prescription medicine return provision, which will allow consumers to return unused pharmaceuticals for environmentally responsible disposal that will protect our water quality and habitat from contamination with these substances. Secure medicine return also helps prevent legal controlled substances from getting into the wrong hands and being misused.”
“Successful cooperation with the state in 2010 on flexible funding options for counties is critical for protecting the services county residents rely on like police protection, a human services safety net, and public transit,” said Councilmember Larry Phillips. “I have already begun talking to state lawmakers about the county’s dire budget situation and adopting this legislative agenda gives us framework for continuing this important dialogue.”
The 2010 Session of the Washington State Legislature convenes on Jan. 11.