County transit task force recommends Metro changes

November 5, 2010

NEW — 1:15 p.m. Nov. 5, 2010

King County Metro Transit should rethink how the public transit agency transports riders, a transit task force recommended Friday.

The recommendations in the Regional Transit Task Force report represent a potential roadmap to long-standing differences related to Metro bus service.

Instead of adding or reducing service based on geographic formulas, the plan calls for service to be linked to productivity, connections to job markets and demand for transit. The plan also emphasizes strong consideration for geographic value and social equity.

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Statehouse incumbents appear to be headed for re-election

November 2, 2010

UPDATED — 9:20 p.m. Nov. 2, 2010

Incumbents in the race to represent Issaquah in Olympia — Republicans Glenn Anderson and Jay Rodne, and Democrat Judy Clibborn — pulled far ahead of opponents in initial election results released Tuesday night.

The representatives trounced little known or under-funded candidates to cruise to re-election.

Meanwhile, Democrat Marcie Maxwell appeared to be locked into a close contest against Republican Peter Dunbar to retain the state House of Representatives seat she clinched in 2008. The same scenario appeared to be the case for Democrat Randy Gordon and Republican Steve Litzow in a state Senate bout.

The measure to increase the King County sales tax rate to pay for criminal justice services trailed in early returns and a state liquor-privatization measure backed by Issaquah-based Costco lagged.

Republican Dino Rossi, a Sammamish resident and former Issaquah state senator, remained locked in a tight race against incumbent U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, Democrat in a close fight for a fourth term.

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Before ballots arrive, read up on issues in county voters’ guide

October 6, 2010

NEW — 6 a.m. Oct. 6, 2010

King County Elections has debuted the primer to the November election, the Local Voters’ Pamphlet.

Find the guide here. The elections office plans to mail ballots to King County residents next week.

Issaquah voters will decide legislative, judicial and congressional races in the Nov. 2 election, plus a measure to raise the county sales tax rate.

The pamphlet includes statements from the candidates in the running to represent the legislative districts in and near Issaquah — the 5th, 41st and 48th — plus information about judicial contests, the sales tax measure and proposed King County Charter amendments.

The elections office has also added a ballot drop box at Issaquah City Hall.

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Fairness issue defines income tax debate

October 5, 2010

The state-sponsored spread in the Sept. 6 issue of Fortune magazine touted Washington as a land of natural beauty, educated residents and, oh yeah, no state income tax.

No state income tax for now, at least.

Initiative 1098, a measure on the November ballot, calls for instituting a state income tax on the richest 1.2 percent of earners. The measure could be a $2 billion boon for education and health care.

Initiative backers said the measure aims to correct a structural imbalance and lessen the reliance on sales tax — a revenue source subject to the roller-coaster fluctuations of the economy.

“This doesn’t solve everything that’s wrong with a tax system that’s ranked the worst in the nation, but it’s a step toward making it more fair,” Yes on Initiative 1098 spokesman Sandeep Kaushik said.

Opponents said levying a state income tax on high earners could erase a competitive edge and eliminate a draw for prospective business investment — and jobs — in a sour economy. Only a handful of states do not collect income tax.

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Mayor unveils proposed 2011 city budget

October 5, 2010

Issaquah leaders plan a slight increase in city spending for next year, as the effects of the recession diminish and large construction projects continue.

Mayor Ava Frisinger has proposed a $30.4 million general fund budget for next year — a minor uptick from the $29.8 million general fund budget approved by the council last December. The proposed budget does not include recommendations for a property tax hike or rate increases. The plan does not cut city positions.

Frisinger characterized the proposed budget as austere, a nod to the uncertain nature of the economic recovery.

“We try to focus on the things that are the core functions of the departments,” she said. “I count on the department directors to tell me which things, if they are not done, are going to have dire consequences.”

The city deferred some maintenance and delayed building upgrades in order to cut costs last year. Frisinger said residents might notice frayed edges at municipal buildings as a result.

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Press Editorial

October 5, 2010

Ballot measures target new, revised taxes

The November general election includes three tax initiatives that would purportedly raise or lower taxes in the future. It’s a convoluted array of ballot issues that says much about the unrest of these economic times.

• Vote no on Initiative 1107. The initiative asks voters to undo the sales tax increase on candy, gum, bottled water and carbonated beverages that legislators passed earlier this year and goes into effect in December. The tax is expected to raise $352 million for the state general fund. That isn’t enough to close the budget gap, but without it, education, social and health services will suffer more. The tax increase is not onerous enough to threaten anyone’s household budget. While legislators need to tweak some aspects of the new law, voters should not reverse it.

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Unions agree to forgo raises amid county budget crunch

September 30, 2010

NEW — 4 p.m. Sept. 30, 2010

King County Executive Dow Constantine and unions announced a tentative plan Thursday for almost 5,000 county employees to forgo raises next year.

The announcement came days after Constantine proposed deep service cuts and layoffs to bridge a $60 million budget gap. The decision to eschew the cost-of-living adjustments, or COLAs, could save the county about $8 million next year.

County Council members Julia Patterson, Larry Gossett and Issaquah-area representatives Kathy Lambert and Reagan Dunn — the Budget Leadership Team — praised the announcement in a statement released Thursday afternoon.

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Register to vote in November election by Monday

September 30, 2010

NEW — 8 a.m. Sept. 30, 2010

In order to vote in the November election, Washington residents must register to vote by Monday.

To register, a person must be a U.S. citizen, a Washington resident, at least 18 by Election Day and not under the authority of the state Department of Corrections.

Voters do not have to register by political party or declare political party membership in order to vote in primary or general elections.

Find a full list of requirements and registration forms at King County Elections.

Issaquah voters will decide legislative, judicial and congressional races in the Nov. 2 election, plus a measure to raise the county sales tax rate.

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King County budget proposal includes deep cuts

September 27, 2010

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.

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County proposes tax hike to stave off cuts

September 21, 2010

Proposed increase to generate $500,000 for Issaquah

Deep cuts to the King County Sheriff’s Office budget could force the agency to shut down police storefronts — a popular crime-prevention tool in rural King County outside of Issaquah.

But the best bet to limit cuts to the sheriff’s office — a proposed sales tax increase dedicated to public safety — rankles Tom Carpenter, a resident and community leader in the Four Creeks Unincorporated Area between Issaquah and Renton.

“Why would you ever trade preventative for reactive?” he said.

The county has asked voters to raise the sales tax rate two-tenths of 1 percent, or 2 cents per $10. The measure on the Nov. 2 ballot aims to raise the sales tax from 9.5 percent to 9.7 percent in order to preserve sheriff’s deputies, county prosecutors, public defenders and court employees.

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