In recent weeks there has been a lot of talk about King County’s $93 million budget deficit and County Executive Ron Sims’ “life boat” strategy. Mr. Sims has proposed that some essential programs, such as public safety and human services, be funded for six months with the hope that the Legislature will grant new taxing authority to bail out King County.
I will not support another tax increase that only punishes the hard-working people of this county with higher taxes during these difficult economic times.
Our county is in the midst of a national economic downturn. Today, inflation is high due to increased energy and food prices, and unemployment is on the rise. This is no time to raise taxes on people who are struggling. Over the past three years, King County has imposed nine new tax increases. The public can’t afford another tax increase, and frankly, they shouldn’t have to.
The fact of the matter is, King County should have never been in this predicament to begin with. In 2005, the general fund had reserves of $115 million. By 2008, those reserves were down to $52 million. In the intervening three years, King County experienced more than 6 percent revenue growth. The reserves were spent at a time of economic growth and prosperity.
The problem is not that King County doesn’t have enough revenue. The problem is that it spends too much.
In the executive’s proposed budget, Mr. Sims called our expenditures “unsustainable.” I couldn’t agree more. Since 2003, King County has averaged more than 4 percent revenue growth, while expenses have increased at almost 8 percent. This has to stop. King County must start living within its means.
As a first step in reforming the budget process, I have proposed a spending cap of 3 percent per year to the County Council’s budget leaders. King County must decide to save money during the good times so we have reserves during the bad times. This is simple kitchen-table math that families all across this county must do every day. King County must tighten its belt and budget responsibly.
Regardless of how the $93 million deficit happened, it’s here and we have to deal with it. King County programs face real cuts, including law enforcement, the courts, human services and public health. I am focused on making sure that we sustain essential services, while maintaining our commitment to those who are most in need. This is not an easy task, but by budgeting responsibly and tightening our belts, I believe it’s possible.
Reagan Dunn is a Metropolitan King County Council member from the Ninth District, which includes Covington, Black Diamond and Maple Valley.