County Council succumbs to red-blue divide in health care debate

May 12, 2010

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 7:11 a.m. May 12, 2010

The nonpartisan King County Council cracked along partisan lines Monday, as members praised national health care reform in a narrow decision.

The symbolic measure supports the implementation of the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed by Congress in March. The council adopted the legislation in a split decision. Democrats on the nine-member council backed the measure; Republicans dissented.

“It is time to reform our health care system,” Chairman Bob Ferguson, the prime sponsor of the legislation and a Democrat, said in a statement after the May 10 decision. “The health care act isn’t perfect, but it will help provide access to basic health care for the more than 150,000 King County residents who are currently uninsured.”

The council decision follows a resolution passed by the King County Board of Health last year urging Congress to enact health care reform. Issaquah Mayor Ava Frisinger serves on the Board of Health.

Republican council members — Jane Hague, Pete Von Reichbauer and Issaquah-area representatives Kathy Lambert and Reagan Dunn — blasted the decision.

“I am concerned that the health care legislation recently passed by Congress is not fiscally sound,” Lambert said in a statement. “The health care services begin several years after the new taxes start, so it funds about six years of service over the first decade of tax collection.”

The dissenters noted a $60 million county spending gap, and said nonpartisan reports showed the federal legislation could cost the county $18 to $34 million.

King County voters approved a measure in November 2008 to make the council, county executive and county assessor offices nonpartisan.

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