King County Council adopts 2013 budget without roads fee

November 13, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

NEW — 4 p.m. Nov. 13, 2012

King County Council members dropped a proposed $20 vehicle-license fee to fund road maintenance and, in a unanimous decision Tuesday, approved the 2013 budget without the fee.

In September, King County Executive Dow Constantine proposed a $20 fee to fund road maintenance and storm response in rural and unincorporated areas. The decision to drop the proposed fee affects residents in unincorporated King County communities, including Klahanie, Mirrormont, Preston and other areas outside Issaquah.

Rather than creating a transportation benefit district in unincorporated King County, officials plan to lobby the Legislature for a comprehensive state transportation package to address road maintenance.

“The proposal to enact a transportation benefit district was a small solution to a very large problem,” Councilman Joe McDermott, Budget Leadership Team chief, said in a statement. “You will find the county in Olympia with a diverse and committed group of allies asking for a dedicated and adequate funding source for roads and transit.”

Officials said the $7.6 billion budget allocates $685 million to the general fund — the source of dollars for elections, law enforcement and other basic government functions. King County Council budget team members said 73 percent of dollars from the fund go toward public safety and criminal justice programs.

The budget does not dip into cash reserves or the county’s rainy day fund.

Councilwoman Kathy Lambert, Issaquah’s representative on the council and a budget team member, said using more efficient practices in the criminal justice system saved the county money.

“With better coordination, savings in one department will have a ripple effect among the sheriff’s office, courts, prosecutors and jails, while also improving outcomes for those caught up in the criminal justice system,” she said in a statement. “Alternatives, such as therapeutic courts and pre-trial diversion, will continue to provide savings by helping people to avoid incarceration and repeat offenses.”

The spending plan preserves funding and staffing for King County District and Superior courts, and the King County Prosecutor’s Office.

The budget allocates funding to ensure the King County Sheriff’s Office has sufficient resources to maintain and replace the commissioned officers for patrol, as the agency faces a growing number of retirements.

Officials included $1.3 million in onetime funds to support domestic violence shelters, legal aid, services for sexual assault survivors, post-incarceration education and housing services.

The budget includes support for gang intervention programs and to improve educational opportunities for offenders transitioning from incarceration.

In the document, council members asked Constantine to work with cities in the county solid waste system — including Issaquah — to determine if a long-term investment in upgrading transfer stations is needed, or if officials should re-evaluate the process.

“I am pleased we were able to work together for the citizens of King County and pass a budget that protects the county’s AAA credit rating,” Issaquah-area Councilman Reagan Dunn said in a statement. “In these challenging economic times it important we act in a fiscally prudent manner to deliver the best services to the constituents we represent.”

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