County Councilmember Charts Path Forward with Investments in Transit, Housing, and Public Safety in the 2019-2020 King County Budget
StoryMetropolitan King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci advances constituent priorities by including investments and initiatives in transportation, housing, and public safety in the unanimously approved 2019-2020 King County budget.
“King County’s two-year budget funds critical services, while also setting the stage to meet transportation, housing, and public safety needs over the long-term in our rapidly changing community,” said Balducci. “Over the past several weeks my colleagues and I have worked to add transit service countywide, establish a roadmap to achieve our 25-year transit vision, invest in a regional approach to housing, and allocate funding for emergency shelter for King County residents living without homes.”
Councilmember Balducci’s priorities in the 2019-2020 King County Council-approved budget:
• Add 25,000 hours of transit service above the Executive’s proposed budget to provide geographic balance to the transit system and ensure that new hours of transit service will benefit all of King County.
• Direct the Executive and Council to develop a roadmap, in collaboration with regional stakeholders, for implementing the region’s long-term transit plan, as well as maintaining county roads and bridges.
• Provide the resources required to implement the recommendations of the Regional Affordable Housing Taskforce and improve the availability of housing to people at all income levels throughout King County.
• Allocate $2 million to support the Eastside Men’s emergency shelter, a funding commitment to move this critical project forward in Bellevue as part of a total of over $15 million in emergency shelter investments countywide.
During the County Council’s budget deliberations, four issue-based panels examined specific policy areas in detail. Councilmember Balducci chaired the “Move King County” budget panel, which focused on King County Metro Transit, as well as the broader county transportation system. In addition to adding bus service and developing a transportation funding plan, the following Move King County Panel recommendations were passed by County Council:
• A process to develop a regional mobility framework, to be created by Metro Transit, for building a future transportation system that works for everyone. This work is particularly timely as new transportation technologies emerge, such as ride-hailing, scooters, bike share, and autonomous vehicles. Transportation innovations provide exciting new opportunities and unprecedented convenience, but they can come at a cost. As the Seattle Times recently reported, ride-hailing adds 91,000 daily trips in the Seattle region, contributing to congestion. This regional framework will help King County build and maintain a transportation system that is easy to use and puts people first.
• More accountability for Access paratransit as King County increases its paratransit service for riders with disabilities. The approved budget creates a permanent citizen advisory committee, and also requires regular reports on Access paratransit performance from Metro Transit. These reports will allow the King County Council to closely monitor how well Access paratransit services its riders.
• Metro Transit is directed to establish a new low-income fare program with a goal of it in place by 2020.
Additionally, drawing on her background in public safety, Balducci wrote several budget amendments designed to monitor and support efforts to address the high vacancy rate for corrections officers in the County’s jails. It can be challenging to recruit new corrections officers, but filling these positions is essential to protect the health and safety of inmates, staff, volunteers, and visitors. Required reporting will enable the Council to continue to monitor staffing levels in the jails throughout the two-year budget. These and other investment in public safety are complemented by the County’s continuing commitment to prevention, with $168 million in the biennium to fund Best Starts for Kids, among many other programs that support youth, families and people in need.
In her role as a supervisor on the King County Flood Control District, Balducci successfully advocated for the District to forego an annual property tax increase for the second time in three years, while focusing existing resources on speeding delivery of needed flood safety projects.
“In times like these, County government needs to take the lead to tackle the big issues of today, and prepare for the challenges of tomorrow,” said Balducci. “The budget County Council passed today embraces that spirit by continuing to provide excellent County services, while investing in transit, homes, and public safety.”