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Strengthening vital services highlight King County’s state legislative agenda
Facing the continuing challenge of providing services to a growing number of people who need them, the Metropolitan King County Council today gave its support to a state legislative agenda that seeks to restores funding for vital human service programs. And under the specter of transit service reductions and roads turning to gravel, the Council continues to call on the Legislature for local revenue options that will provide the financing needed to maintain vital transportation infrastructure.
“Many people in King County continue to struggle and their challenges match the challenges facing County government,” said Council Chair Larry Gossett. “We’re asking the state to provide us with the revenue options needed to maintain the programs and transit services that are lifelines to the most disenfranchised residents of King County.”
“There is a lot at stake for King County next year,” said Council Vice Chair Julia Patterson. “I am hopeful our Legislative Agenda shows loud and clear that we need more ways to fund our human service needs as well as new revenue options to support transit and roads.”
“This agenda supports jobs and prosperity through advocacy of critical services like transit and the human services safety net,” said Council Vice Chair Jane Hague.
Each year King County develops a State Legislative Agenda with the Council and the County Executive working together to decide on the positions that are most important to bring to the attention of the State Legislature. For 2014, the County stresses the economic impact King County has on the state of Washington. The agenda states that reductions in funding and policy changes on both a state and federal level have had an impact on how the County can deliver services to its residents and that the County must be given the ability to prioritize critical regional needs.
For 2014, the State Legislative Agenda will include:
State Support & Local Tools for the Safety Net
• Restoration of $7.4 million in cuts to King County mental health and substance abuse programs in the 2013-15 biennial budget, based on an assumed Medicaid fund shift that cannot be materialized in King County. Inpatient bed space is currently insufficient, with dozens of people each night on hold in local emergency rooms. This cut will exacerbate this problem.
• Adjusting the Mental Illness & Drug Dependency (MIDD) levy to better meet the needs of people suffering from mental illness and addiction, including extending the MIDD supplantation language at 30 percent by postponing the planned 2015 stairstep down to 20 percent as originally outlined by state law.
• Ensuring that any state actions to comply with federal Medicaid procurement rules for mental health services as currently provided by Regional Service Networks (RSNs) is compassionate and effective for people suffering from mental illness. King County wants to be part of the conversation.
“Growing up in a single-parent household in Renton, I know from personal experience that if you can get a little help, if you get a little support, that can make a huge difference,” said Councilmember Rod Dembowski. “For that reason, I was pleased to offer amendments to the County’s legislative agenda that strengthen our efforts to meet the demand for a wide range of needed human services.”
Delivering on Transportation & Achieving our Growth Management Goals
• A call for local revenue options, as well as additional direct state support for local and regional needs, including rural roads and regional transit.
• Suitable public services for unincorporated areas – through annexation or interlocal agreement – remains a priority for King County. Revenue options beneficial to annexation.
“I believe that our 2014 legislative agenda is a solid list of items that we can advocate to our state legislators. We are facing important issues and our needs are great,” said Councilmember Kathy Lambert. “Many of them are basic such as the extensive transportation needs of both transit and roads. In unincorporated areas, the roads funding is so inadequate that some bridges are planned to be closed and some roads could be reverted to gravel. To maintain our transportation infrastructure the current funding formula needs an additional $160 million a year. We also have extensive social service responsibilities facing cuts from the state and federal level. I look forward to working with our King County legislators to come to a mutually agreeable plan on how to solve these important issues.”
Investing in our Community Assets
• King County supports the Cultural Access Fund and other local tools for the arts.
• King County requests flexibility in administration and investment of hotel/motel revenues, including – with fiscal prudence – bonding for housing and tourism capital needs while protecting revenue streams for ongoing operating expenses. Hotel/motel arts funding would remain unchanged.
The legislative agenda also calls on the state to clarify and integrate the medical cannabis and recreational marijuana statutes to better support effective law enforcement, land use laws, and public health objectives such as deterring youth access.