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King County Executive Proposes Budget That Would Cut More Than 500 Jobs

King County WA
King County Executive Dow Constantine

The economy in King County is booming, but county government is planning to cut more than 500 jobs to balance its budget. King County Executive Dow Constantine says the problem is that state laws restrict the ability of local government to raise taxes to keep up with growth. 

About 200 of the positions will be actual layoffs, mostly in the public health department, and the rest will come through attrition. The job cuts are part of Constantine's proposed budget for the next two years.

Constantine says tax measures put in place by the state, including a 1 percent cap on the base property tax, are forcing King County to make reductions. That’s even though more people are moving here, putting pressure on county services like public transit and health clinics.

"Do the math," Constantine said. "There’s a legitimate debate to be had over the proper size and scope of government, and I welcome that debate, but we’re not having that debate. Instead, thanks to our structural revenue deficit, we’re getting a smaller government by default."

King County is eliminating two public health clinics located in Auburn and Bothell.

But Constantine says even though the clinic in Federal Way was also slated to close, the city is chipping in to keep it open, and union members have opted to forego some pay increases to make that happen.

King County is also turning to nonprofits to provide some services that it can no longer offer elsewhere.

Constantine says the legislature should revisit the tax cap and change it so that local governments can raise enough money to cover inflation and population growth. 

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.