Proposed 2015/2016 biennial budget address

Dear fellow King County employee –

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King County Executive Dow Constantine

Here is the full text of the speech I delivered this morning to the King County Council, transmitting the first full biennial budget in county history. You can see the speech in its entirety here.

As I told the Councilmembers, a budget is more than just another spreadsheet; its numbers impact the lives of real people. Like I shared with you Friday, I outlined how our revenues are constrained by the state to a level below that of population growth plus inflation. I discussed how the repeal of progressive state taxes and the loss of state and federal funds affect our ability to provide public transit, public health, and the services you provide every day.

I outlined the consequences in this proposed budget of “smaller government by default” – the unavoidable elimination of more than 500 positions – in particular at Metro Transit, where volatile sales taxes that support transit have not recovered since the recession, and at Public Health, where services funded primarily by state and federal funds have seen continual decline and even abrupt withdrawal.

After accounting for vacancies and attrition, the number of actual employee layoffs is just over 200 today. Full details are contained in this Executive Summary.

I told the Council we need a long-term strategy to reduce demand on services funded in the King County Budget, a strategy to prevent such crises as incarceration, violence, diabetes, and mental illness that require the bulk of our budgets today.

So today I called for a regional investment in healthy children and communities. I asked the Council and our community partners to join me – and I ask you to join me – in the process of developing a levy to build a more prosperous and equitable King County by assuring that every baby born in our community and every child raised here has a strong start in life. Call it “Best Starts for Kids.”

Prevention is the key. Over the next several months, I will work with partners in our Health and Human Services Transformation Plan partners, the Youth Action Plan Task Force, and other community leaders to forward a funding proposal to the Council in 2015.

Once again, I assure you that I will keep working to fix systems and create the innovations and partnerships we need to deliver the services the public expects.

The budget address is only the first step in a two-month public process, leading to Council adoption in November of a final County budget. You can learn more about my budget proposal at the Office of Performance, Strategy and Budget website, and keep track of the Council’s deliberations at the Council Budget site.

Thank you for your hard work and commitment to serving the people of King County.

Sincerely,

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Dow Constantine

King County Executive