This is not a new request. Counties, particularly the highly urbanized counties like King, Pierce and Snohomish counties, want the same kinds of taxes that cities have. Chief among them is the utility tax.
This was to be expected, given the budget and revenue problems that local governments are running into. It’s also highly unlikely they will get a utility taxing authority, but the Legislature may find some other ways to help counties.
King County Council calls on state lawmakers
to act on revenue options for counties
State legislative agenda seeks flexibility for counties
to set local fees and revenue sources to avert another budget crisis
As the state Legislature convenes today in Olympia, one of its priorities must be to fix the broken structure for providing revenues for all counties across the state, according to the state legislative agenda unanimously adopted today by the Metropolitan King County Council.
"We are calling on the state Legislature to give us the tools and flexibility we need to maintain the public safety and public health services our citizens expect," said new Council Chair Dow Constantine. "The Council was able to protect these key functions for the first half of 2009, but not without a painful round of cuts. We need the Legislature’s help to ensure that critical services can continue past June, and that even deeper cuts will not be required for 2010 and beyond."
"The regional services that the county provides on behalf of the state, including the courts, the sheriff, and public health, are all in jeopardy unless the state provides sustainable revenue options for counties," said new Council Vice Chair Bob Ferguson. "I’m hopeful that state and county officials can come together to find a workable solution, and ensure that critical services are maintained for our shared constituencies."
Counties were created as a governmental subdivision of the state of Washington to provide public safety through the sheriff, justice through the prosecutor and the courts, and basic health and life safety through the public-health department. All Washington counties are experiencing shortfalls from a financing structure that provides revenues only from the property tax and sales tax – fewer sources than those provided to cities. Several counties in Eastern Washington already face bankruptcy and rely on direct state contributions to keep their doors open.
Among the urgent actions called for in King County’s 2009 State Legislative Agenda are: