King County Councilman Reagan Dunn, whose district includes Covington and Maple Valley, announced his intention to run for re-election Tuesday during a campaign kick off event at Meydenbauer Convention Center in Bellevue.
More than 1,200 attended the event, according to one of Dunn’s aides, and guest speakers included Attorney General Rob McKenna, Secretary of State Sam Reed and King County Sheriff Sue Rahr.
“I am gratified and humbled that so many people turned out to support my re-election,” Dunn said. “The room was full and the crowd was boisterous. It was a great event and I couldn’t be more pleased about how it turned out.”
Dunn spoke for about 15 minutes about the challenges facing King County and touched on the county’s $93 million budget deficit this year as well as a projected $50 million gap in the 2010 budget as reasons why he needs to return to the council and help the county make significant changes.
“In 2005 (county executive) Ron Sims declared that the ‘era of deficits is over,’ ” Dunn said. “At that time King County had $115 million in emergency reserves. By 2008, the courthouse establishment had raided those reserves to the tune of $60 million.”
This happened, Dunn explained, during a period of economic growth of annual increases ranging from 5 percent to 6 percent.
He compared the use of the emergency reserves to “going to Vegas with your children’s college fund after you maxed out the credit card.”
“Could we use that money now? You bet we could,” Dunn said. “Instead, we are cutting human services and eliminating police on the street.”
Dunn criticized three new tax increases proposed by the Legislature that would allow the county to raise money to cut its budget deficits.
He gave the state of the economy and the county’s efforts to be the first region to emerge from the recession as reasons to oppose new taxes.
“The legislature is poised to give the county authority to pass three new tax increases,” Dunn said. “I’m not in favor of any of them; it is absolutely irresponsible during these bad economic times to tax economic activity.”
Dunn said there should be a “new era of fiscal responsibility” in which governments like King County avoid the problems its currently having by managing its budget more responsibly and making better decisions about how cash in its coffers are spent.
“This horrible recession is fraught with risks but it is also full of opportunities,” Dunn said. “King County is at a crossroads. Will we take the easy way out and raise taxes or will we do the hard work of cutting spending and setting our priorities straight?”