King County Council passes $16 billion budget, with investments in housing and environment

Metropolitan King County Council unanimously approved a two-year, $16 billion budget on Tuesday, making massive investments in housing, environment, transit and public safety programs, as wondering how to replace hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid in the age of the pandemic that has run its course.

While the county council made some changes, most of the approved budget represents proposals made earlier this fall by King County Executive Dow Constantine.

The budget represents a 28% increase over the county’s last biennial budget, which passed in 2020. But that budget, passed at the start of the COVID pandemic, was revised to add more money nine times, so as public health needs soared, people lost their jobs at a record rate and businesses needed emergency help. It was also adopted at a time of plummeting tax revenues, a result of the drop in economic activity due to the pandemic.

Once these nine revisions are taken into account, the new budget represents an increase of 4.8% compared to the previous one.

The new budget had to pass without federal funding of $745 million that the county received in 2021 and 2022 under various federal assistance programs passed during the pandemic. Most of this money has been spent or expired.

“The Council took a strong budget from Executive Constantine and made new investments in safety and community engagement,” said Council Member Joe McDermott, Budget Chair. “Whether you’re looking to find affordable housing in King County in the future, looking for behavioral health support, or using the subway next year, you’ll see the benefits.”

Constantin praised the council’s work.

“This budget is a map of King County values,” he said in a prepared statement, “prioritizing investments in our environment, in prosperity, and in communities and people furthest from opportunity. , access and justice – to make ours a welcoming community where everyone can thrive.

The new budget includes increased funding for law enforcement, to try to attract and retain officers in the sheriff’s department, as well as for law enforcement alternatives and oversight.

The approved budget, combined with a new collective bargaining agreement with the union representing sheriff’s deputies, means members of the King County Sheriff’s Office will, next year, begin wearing body cameras for the first time.

The County Office of Law Enforcement and Oversight, which provides independent oversight of the Sheriff’s Department, gained investigative and subpoena powers with the new collective agreement and will get funding for five new positions. , including four new investigators. There’s about $1 million for new programs at the county’s youth detention center.

The budget includes $220 million aimed at electrifying the Metro’s 1,400 buses by 2035. It includes $3.5 million, added by the county council, to clean up bus stops and transit centers and improve safety and passenger experience on buses.

The county board added nearly $25 million for capital projects, including new community centers in the International District of Chinatown and Fall City, and a new United Indians of All Tribes Canoe Center in South Lake. Union.

This finance the new operation King County Regional Homelessness Authority with $96 million.

There is $166 million to fund affordable housing near transit centers, supportive housing operations, and coordinated homelessness response efforts.

The council added $6.2 million to provide wage increases to homeless people and social service providers to keep up with inflation. The city of Seattle is currently wondering whether to do the same.

“Essential workers shouldn’t have to struggle to pay their grocery bills or rent,” said Alison Eisinger, executive director of the Seattle/King County Coalition on Homelessness.

There is $29 million to repair culverts that block rivers and streams and prevent salmon from returning to spawning grounds. Another $23 million would be used to remove excess nitrogen and other nutrients from wastewater. And $70 million would go to land conservation, purchase and preservation of what Constantine called “the last “best” natural placespart of a larger program that voters approved in November.

The legislation leaves about 7% of the $2.3 general fund budget undesignated, as a sort of bad weather fund for emergencies.

Editor Anna Patrick contributed to this report.

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