‘No’ to the county sales tax boost | Editorial
By CRAIG GROSHART
Mercer Island Reporter Contributor
October 12, 2010 · Updated 3:53 PM
Public safety is important, but King County is wrong to ask voters to increase the sales tax to support it. Voters should vote “No” on King County Proposition 1.
The proposition would increase the sales tax by 0.2 percent with 60 percent of the money going to the county and the rest to the cities in King County.
The county would use its share to avoid having to cut Sheriff’s deputies, prosecutors and probation officers in order to plug a budget deficit hole.
The problem with King County is not a lack of money to adequately pay for public safety, but its refusal to rein in pay and benefits for county employees. The higher the salaries and fatter the benefits, the less money there is to properly pay for needed public safety.
The result is that the county has had to layoff people and leave job vacancies empty to keep from going in the hole.
County officials and employees say they are getting the message. This budget year, County Executive Dow Constantine has reached tentative agreements with a number of unions to forego cost-of-living increases next year. Constantine and staff, along with the County Council, is doing the same.
But that’s only a start. The county needs to look closely at the pay and benefits given to county employees. In many cases they far exceed what is available in the private sector.
This has been talked about, but any action must wait for next year or beyond when union contracts come up for re-negotiation.
If the county wants more money from taxpayers, it first must show a commitment to be financially responsible. Do that, and we’ll talk about a tax increase.
Vote “No” on King County Proposition 1.
‘Yes’ on county charter amendments
Three amendments to the county charter are also on the ballot. All — amendments 1, 2 and 3 — deserve a “Yes” vote.
Amendment 1 merely adds language to the preamble of the County Charter to say that ensuring responsibility and accountability applies to “local and regional governance and service.”
Amendment 2 gets rid of a campaign finance annoyance. Now, candidates must file the same receipts and expenditure form to both the county and state. Amendment 2 would eliminate this duplication.
Amendment 3 changes collective bargaining to let the Sheriff negotiate all aspects of public safety work rules except wages and benefits, which would stay with the County Executive.
It clearly makes sense to give the Sheriff, who knows how and where deputies should be assigned, the power to negotiate that with the unions.
“No” on Proposition 1, the sales tax increase.
“Yes” on charter amendments 1, 2 and 3.
Craig Groshart is the editor of the Bellevue Reporter, a sister paper of the Mercer Island Reporter and a Sound Publishing newspaper.Contact Mercer Island Reporter Contributor Craig Groshart at firstname.lastname@example.org.