King County budget proposal includes deep cuts
September 27, 2010
By Warren Kagarise
NEW — 2 p.m. Sept. 27, 2010
King County Executive Dow Constantine has proposed employee layoffs and service cuts to county departments to bridge a $60 million budget shortfall.
Constantine proposed a $5 billion budget Monday — including $612.8 million for the general fund, the account used to pay for public safety and criminal justice services. Constantine has allotted more than three-fourths of the budget for safety services.
King County Council members said after years of deep cuts, only difficult decisions remain to close the spending gap. The council is due to approve a budget by late November.
Issaquah-area Councilwoman Kathy Lambert serves as vice chairwoman of the Budget Leadership Team and directs the Health and Human Services Panel, the group responsible for assessing the proposed budget for public health and human services funding.
“The county’s local government responsibility is an important issue I will focus on throughout the budget process,” Lambert said. “People living in unincorporated areas depend on King County for local government services, such as law enforcement, and we have the responsibility to provide local services for these residents, particularly in the rural area.”
Councilman Reagan Dunn, the other Issaquah-area representative, leads the Law and Justice Panel. The group must decide on proposed budgets for the King County Sheriff’s Office, the Prosecutor’s Office, and the District and Superior courts.
“The cuts to our law enforcement system are deep. I don’t like seeing the safety of the community on the chopping block and I will work with my colleagues to find ways to restore the worst cuts,” he said in a statement. “This budget must start us on a path toward more sustainable budgets. Unless we can limit the growth of King County government to the rate of inflation, we will be here year after year cutting our most important programs.”
The review process starts Oct. 5. But the proposed budget could receive a last-minute rewrite if a county sales tax measure passes in November. The county has asked voters to increase the sales tax rate from 9.5 percent to 9.7 percent to prevent cuts to criminal justice services.