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Executive Constantine unveils 2021-2022 budget, calls for major investment in housing, advancing an anti-racist agenda


King County Executive
Dow Constantine

Executive Constantine unveils 2021-2022 budget, calls for major investment in housing, advancing an anti-racist agenda


King County Executive Dow Constantine joined the King County Council today to present his $12.4 billion biennial Proposed Budget, which includes calling for an investment of $400 million in regional housing, as well as funding for anti-racism efforts, criminal legal system transformation, and community engagement.


The $12.4 billion budget presented by Executive Constantine funds local and regional services for 2,260,000 residents of King County, now the nation’s 12th largest by population.

Executive Constantine’s budget includes the loss of nearly 450 County positions in 2021-2022 as the region continues to manage the economic downturn caused by COVID-19.

“With the investments laid out in this budget, King County puts its money where its values are,” said Executive Constantine.

“This year, 2020, will surely be remembered as one of the most pivotal of our lifetimes. How we act, what we do, the choices we make, the commitments we fulfill, will define us – not only now, but to generations to come,” he said. “In the budget I present today, I have laid out bold policies that reflect our common values, and hold us to the standards of Dr. Martin Luther King, who said: ‘The time is always right to do the right thing.’”

Providing a place to call home for 2,000 chronically homeless people in King County

Executive Constantine’s budget included a measure that proposes the King County Council enact a 0.1 percent sales tax increase to fund a $400 million investment in permanent housing for the chronically homeless – those HUD defines as residing in a place not meant for human habitation for at least year, and with a serious physical or behavioral health issues.

As of Sept. 21, the Homeless Management Information Service reports 4,500 chronically homeless individuals currently receiving services in King County.

The new funding would provide a place to call home for about 2,000 people, and, with State legislative approval, take advantage of the current favorable real estate market to make an immediate difference in people’s lives. State Representative Cindy Ryu and State Senator Patty Kuderer will sponsor legislation to allow jurisdictions to purchase distressed motels, hotels, nursing homes and other facilities.

“Our neighbors, friends, and family members in housing distress cannot wait. This is the right thing to do, and we need to do it now,” said Executive Constantine.

In addition, Executive Constantine also proposed the King County Council tap into $4.2 million of the Rainy Day Fund to ensure those individuals and families who have been moved out of emergency shelters to hotel rooms around the region don’t lose that housing if the U.S. Senate fails to take up COVID-19-related financial assistance to states and local governments by the end of the year.

Through careful financial management, the Rainy Day currently has about $26 million, up from $16 million in 2011.

The Rainy Day funds would pay for hotel and motel rooms around the region for about a month.

Public Health – responding to the pandemic

Continued efforts to comprehensively respond to the COVID-19 crisis in King County will largely depend on federal funding next year.

Expected FEMA reimbursement and the $262 million of federal CARES Act funding has covered most COVID-related Public Health spending in 2020, including:
  • $60 million for acquisition and development of isolation and quarantine facilities, PPE, and shelter de-intensification.
  • $40 million for new and redeployed staff to respond to COVID and incremental COVID-related leave.
  • $29 million for Public Health testing and contact tracing.

Anti-racism and criminal legal system transformation: invest, divest, re-imagine

In partnership with advocates, community-members, and public servants throughout King County government, Executive Constantine put together a package of proposals that reforms the criminal legal system, and funds ongoing work to confront racism as a public health crisis.

Divest $4.6 million of marijuana tax revenue

Executive Constantine’s proposed budget shifts $4.6 million of marijuana excise tax revenue from law enforcement to community-based programs.  This represents all the money received by King County from retail marijuana sales.  $2.8 million would be devoted to a program to help individuals vacate convictions of marijuana-related offenses that are no longer illegal, and settle unpaid court fines, fees, and restitution that could lead to incarceration. Black communities have historically been disproportionately harmed by our nation’s “war on drugs,” and this begins to undo some of that harm.

Invest $6.2 million in “Restorative Community Pathways”

In lieu of filing charges, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office will refer up to 800 young people by 2022-2023 to receive comprehensive, community-based services. Restorative Community Pathways also includes appropriate services and support for harmed parties, and restitution so that youths who cannot pay fines and other financial obligations do not end up in a cycle of probation violations and incarceration. Most of the impacted youth are low-income people of color, and this novel program was conceptualized and developed by community organizations who serve those youth, including CHOOSE 180, Community Passageways, and Creative Justice.

Invest $750,000 to co-create and implement alternative to policing in urban unincorporated King County

The Executive Office will partner with the King County Sheriff’s Office and community members to co-create and implement a new community-driven safety model in urban unincorporated areas such as White Center, Skyway and East Renton.  This may involve hiring behavioral health professionals to partner with Sheriff’s Office Deputies and divert cases from criminal courts and jails.  The goal is to design the program in 2021 and implement no later than 2022.

Divest $1.9 million in detention by continuing limits on jail population

During COVID, King County has reduced the daily adult population in the jail to 1,300, down from approximately 1,900 pre-COVID, and the Department of Adult and Juvenile Detention and others will seek to maintain and further reductions.  This will allow closure of one floor (out of 12) at the King County Correctional Facility in Seattle.  The savings estimate is based on gradual implementation in 2022.  Savings will be much larger in subsequent biennia and will be devoted to support programs outside the criminal legal system.

Invest $600,000 to respond to regional gun violence

Public Health Seattle-King County’s Zero Youth Detention program will continue the regional gun violence prevention initiative in 2021-2022.  This program is focused on areas of the County experiencing increases in gun violence, particularly among young people of color.

Invest $2.7 million in a community justice model to divert eligible first-time offenders in lowest level cases from the judicial system, offering services to break the cycle of chronic offenses

The Executive’s Office will work with the Department of Community and Human Services and community organizations to implement King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg’s proposal to divert approximately 1,000 of the lowest-level filings from the judicial system each year.  Instead of facing traditional prosecution, these individuals – who are facing their first charge and are disproportionately young men of color – will be offered a community-based alternative that emphasizes restorative justice and restoration for harmed parties.  Violent crimes and crimes against people are not eligible. Community-based diversion alternatives will be developed, including a restitution fund for harmed parties. The program will eventually be fully funded through staff savings in public defense, prosecutors, and the courts. 

Reimagine fare enforcement on Metro

Metro Transit will partner with the King County Sheriff’s Office, contractors, employees, and community members to co-create new alternatives to traditional fare enforcement, which has had a disproportionate negative impact on riders of color.  With COVID-19, fare enforcement will continue to be suspended at least through the end of 2020.  The goal is to design new programs in 2021 and implement no later than 2022.  The current contract with a private security firm to provide fare enforcement services is $4.7 million.

Invest in community engagement

The 2021-2022 Proposed Budget makes investments to change the County’s approach to working with community to support co-creation and the long-term success of community-based organizations. This includes creating a participatory budgeting effort to determine how to invest $10 million in new capital projects in the urban unincorporated areas of Skyway, White Center, Fairwood, East Federal Way, and East Renton.

Investments in unincorporated King County

King County is prioritizing community-driven input into the biennial budgeting process for residents of the unincorporated area by expanding community participation and decision-making to improve County services, programs, and facilities.

Investments include:

  • $10 million in seed funding for a community center in Skyway, a long-time need that has been requested from community. Other sources of funding will be necessary to complete the project, which is expected to cost tens of millions of dollars.
  • Investing $10 million in new capital projects in the urban unincorporated areas of Skyway, White Center, Fairwood, East Federal Way, and East Renton.
  • $1.8 million for programs co-created with residents in the unincorporated area, including youth marijuana prevention and employment programs.
  • $24 million for open space conservation.
  • $8 million for parks improvements throughout unincorporated King County, including Vashon Island, Preston, East Renton, White Center, and Skyway.
  • $6 million for new, flexible Metro transit service in Skyway, to be co-created with community.

Metro Transit: rebounding after COVID, continuing to green the fleet

Facing an expected loss of $200 million in sales tax revenues over the next two years, as well as significant fare revenue reductions, Metro is committed to continuing and rebuilding service, focusing on routes that retained strong ridership.

The 2021-2022 Proposed Budget and capital program support the implementation of several long-planned RapidRide lines and Sound Transit Link light rail integrations:

  • New RapidRide lines include Delridge, Madison, and Renton/Kent/Auburn, providing frequent all-day service to several low-income and BIPOC communities.
  • Aligning fixed route bus and other Metro services with Link expansions, including Northgate link in 2021; Eastlink in 2023; and Federal Way, Lynnwood, and Redmond Link in 2024-2025.

In the next two years, Metro will purchase 40 battery electric buses and fund new charging infrastructure at South Base, and will plan, design, and build charging infrastructure to support an additional 260 battery electric buses by 2028.

Environment priorities: land, water, climate

Executive Constantine has made environmental policy and programs a key priority for County government, and the 2021-2022 Proposed Budget contains funding for new initiatives as well as long-term priorities.

Clean Water and Healthy Habitat

  • Roughly $150 million in Wastewater Treatment Division (WTD) plant improvements that plan and build for the system’s future needs.
  • $88.4 million in combined sewer overflow and green stormwater infrastructure.
  • $1.7 million for coastline projects on Vashon Island, including armoring removal within the Maury Island Aquatic Reserve.

Preserve, protect and restore green space

  • Invest approximately $92 million in Eastrail, East Lake Sammamish Trail, the Foothills Regional Trail, and others. Parks plans to complete four trail connections by 2022, providing commuters with transportation alternatives that will help reduce emissions and strengthen regional mobility.
  • Allocate at least $72 million in Conservation Futures Tax revenue for forests, farmlands and open space

Tackling climate change

  • Incorporating green building standards and achieving LEED Platinum, LEED Gold, and Living Building Challenge (LBC) certifications; 242 capital projects in this budget are pursuing green building standards.
  • Energy investments in the Parks Aquatic Center and Parks Central Maintenance Facility, preliminary design for an LBC-certified education space at Wastewater Treatment Division’s South Plant, and LED lighting upgrades at the King County Airport.


  • Investing $1.5 million towards an International Marketplace in South King County to support tourism and the economic empowerment of immigrant and refugee communities facing displacement in South King County.
  • $13.4 million to build conduit and fiber optic infrastructure within a 28-mile corridor through King County's fast-growing metropolitan areas: Woodinville, Kirkland, Redmond, Bellevue, Renton, and unincorporated parts of King County.
  • $450,000 to promote music tourism, including $300,000 for independent live music venues to make COVID-safe modifications to their sites, and $150,000 for a communications and marketing campaigns, developed in partnership with Visit Seattle, Southside Regional Tourism Authority and the Port of Seattle to promote regional music tourism.
  • $30 million in capital improvements and investments in infrastructure to make the King County International Airport one of the greenest and most customer-friendly regional airports in the country.

Video of 2021-2022 Proposed Budget transmittal speech

Text of the 2021-2022 Proposed Budget transmittal speech

To the King County Council, elected officials, our valued employees, and the people of King County –

The fact that I am speaking to you today from my home here in West Seattle – with my daughter in another part of the house in the middle of online first grade – testifies to the strange and difficult time through which we are living.

Almost seven months ago, our region experienced the first outbreak of the novel coronavirus in the United States. While we had prepared – and, in fact, stood up our emergency Health and Medical Area Command a month prior – no one knew how the disease would unfold, and how it would impact our community.

It has been, in a word, devastating.

In King County, more than 21,000 confirmed cases, more than 2,300 people hospitalized with severe illness. More than 750 lives lost. Friends. Family. People I knew, people you knew, people whose absence leaves a profound emptiness in our community.

For King County government, everything we do has changed. Every one of our 16,000 full, part-time and seasonal employees has had to adapt to new realities, and find new ways to serve the public.

Through it all, our front-line workers continued to report for duty: bus operators, corrections officers, transfer station workers, janitors, Public Health nurses, and so many others who showed the region and world what it means to serve. You have earned our eternal gratitude.

In the last seven months, I have submitted and you have passed four emergency supplemental budgets that included rental assistance, so people who lost their paychecks wouldn’t lose their homes, as well as funding to help our beloved arts and cultural organizations get through these times, and small business grants to help our cherished neighborhood shops and restaurants keep their doors open.

I know the hardships that our community continues to experience, and it’s especially tough for schoolkids and their parents. I was watching my daughter’s first grade class and as the teacher asked the kids to open up an app to work on, I watched one little guy who, at least for the moment, didn’t have a grown-up at his side, just staring and the screen, lost and confused. Like he had been left behind. I felt so sorry for him.

For the kids who really need in-person instruction, whether because their parents don’t have the luxury of staying home, or because they have special needs, or because they are just too young to do well like this, we all have to do the hard work to get them into a safe, in-person school environment. They won’t get these months and years back. And that all starts with getting and keeping the infection rate low.

But COVID-19 is just one of the challenges we face. As we raised the alarm about the pandemic’s uneven toll on our society – as it became clear that Black and brown people were suffering disproportionate illness and death – a black man named George Floyd was slowly, coldly, publicly murdered by the state. His death shocked America, and caused the nation, or more specifically the white majority that never had to directly confront racism, to begin to reckon with our legacy of genocide, slavery, and oppression.

But also in this terrible moment, there is the prospect of redemption.
As I said in my State of the County speech in July, we have an unprecedented opportunity to remake society, not to return to normal, not to patch back together a deeply flawed status quo, but to create something better.

Guided by our True North – “Making King County a welcoming community where every person can thrive” – today I submit a two-year, $12.4 billion budget that provides local and regional services to the more than two-and-a-quarter million residents of King County - now the 12th largest county in the nation.

I want to acknowledge the hundreds of people across our government who developed this Proposed Budget – working remotely, balancing all the other life stresses and pressures, in circumstances none of us has ever faced before.

With the investments laid out in this budget, King County puts its money where its values are. In this extraordinary moment, we make an important down payment on building a strong, equitable, and racially just county that lives up to the principles of its namesake.

In these uncertain times, we continue our careful and meticulous stewardship of public funds, and I look forward to working closely with King County Council Budget Chair Jeanne Kohl-Welles, who, given all the supplemental spending measures we have had to pass so far this year, is certainly one of the hardest working budget chairs ever.

I am eager for Chair Kohl-Welles and the rest of the Council to take up my proposals on funding our anti-racism work, and transforming the criminal legal system.

In June, I joined with Public Health Director Patty Hayes to declare racism a public health crisis, and we committed all of King County government to implementing a racially equitable response to this crisis, centered on community, and on those who are the most directly affected.

As my proposed budget took shape, our anti-racism priorities and criminal legal system transformation coalesced around three principles: Divest, invest, and re-imagine.

By divest, I mean stopping current practices that cause harm and diverting the savings to serve a greater good.

For example, I propose to reallocate $4.6 million in marijuana tax revenues from the King County Sheriff’s Office and transfer these monies to community-based programs, including work to help people vacate previous marijuana convictions that make it harder to get employment and housing.

It is a fact that Black communities have suffered and continue to be disproportionately harmed by our nation’s “war on drugs,” and this begins to undo some of that harm.

My office and the King County Sheriff’s Office worked closely in putting together their budget. Every criminal justice agency had to make reductions, and I made sure the Sheriff’s Office leadership understood the financial realities we face and the priorities we are called to serve in this moment. They proposed specific cuts, and I accepted them.

Let me be clear: the re-direction of marijuana tax revenues that I announced last week does not mean additional cuts – doesn’t mean laying off 30 deputies or cutting 911 service.

There are other proposed divestments in my budget as well…

We have carefully reduced the adult daily population in the jail to about 1,300, and we need to continue that, and to do more.

With fewer people in jail, we will – after the COVID crisis - be able to close one of the 12 floors in the King County Correctional Facility downtown. Even if we can only do that in the second year of the biennium, it will save $1.9 million that we will invest in programs to keep people from coming to jail in the first place.

My budget also invests - where we can make the most difference.

In my State of the County address I set a goal of ending centralized detention of youth under 18 by 2025. To do so will require community-based solutions for the last, most difficult cases. In this budget, we fund intensive work with community to plan and develop new models for youth in the criminal legal system that are less traumatic and more restorative than standard detention.

In a unique partnership, Department of Public Defense Director Anita Khandelwal and King County Prosecuting Attorney Dan Satterberg are launching a novel program that was conceptualized and developed by community organizations.

In lieu of filing juvenile charges, the Prosecutor will refer up to 800 young people each year to receive comprehensive, community-based services to help them, and their families… with mental health services, addiction and other counseling, getting back into school, and getting connected to work. Essentially, getting back on track.

We’re calling this program “Restorative Community Pathways,” and its funding of $6.2 million includes services and support for those who have been harmed, as well as restitution to help undo the harm caused.

My office will also be working with Prosecutor Satterberg on a similar effort for adults: providing community-based services instead of filing charges against about 1,000 people facing a first, non-violent offense, including misdemeanors and felonies.

While we have directed an upfront investment of $2.7 million for this project in the budget, in the long run we believe this is a humane and smart investment that will save defense, prosecution, and court costs.

We are envisioning alternatives to traditional law enforcement that meet the unique needs of all the diverse communities of unincorporated King County, in partnership with those communities.

With seed funding of $750,000, we are going to engage and support community members to work with us in the Executive’s Office as well as the King County Sheriff’s Office to help those communities define their safety needs and decide how to best address them, which may involve more behavioral health or human service professionals who can solve community conflicts without force.

Now, when I say ‘re-imagining,’ I am talking about examining all county practices, and how they may disproportionately and unfairly impact Black, Indigenous, and people of color.

For example, as a result of many conversations with community leaders, we took a hard look at fare enforcement policies on Metro, and determined the approach of the current private security contract of $4.7 million needs to be reconsidered and realigned to meet our values, and our goals.

We want to create something new, something that is less like policing and more like customer service, something that would stop the racially-disproportionate impact of conventional fare enforcement while providing new opportunities to help riders get the right fare card to match their income – and maybe even connect people with housing, behavioral health, or other needed services.

All of this work was made possible by our anti-racist core team, which included leaders, thinkers, and doers from across the Executive branch, led by people of color. As a government, and a major employer in King County, we have made racial justice front-and-center throughout our internal operations, including recruitment, workforce management, and accountability.

To the core team, I am constantly inspired by our conversations, and I thank you for bringing your brilliance and experience to the task of creating a more racially just King County.

As this pandemic reshaped our community, as we faced the tremendous responsibility of taking the first steps to undo 400 years of oppression, we also confronted the tremendous economic costs suffered by so many residents, and the continued challenge of affordable housing.

We are in a situation where people worry about keeping their jobs, while housing prices continue to be too high for many, and our streets and parks and other public places increasingly become the last refuge of those who are truly struggling.

To the elected leaders on the King County Council, I say to you: we have a means to take advantage of this unique moment in our history, and make an enormous difference.

Along with my proposed budget, I am transmitting a measure to house and provide care for as many as 2000 of the chronically homeless people in our communities, on our streets – those with behavioral health or other challenges. It would require you to exercise your authority to add one-tenth percent to the county’s sales tax for housing and behavioral health care.

If we bond against this revenue stream, it translates into a $400 million game changer that – with a legislative fix – will even allow us to take advantage of the current real estate market to make smart investments in existing single-room settings, like disused hotels and nursing homes, and get a roof over people’s heads immediately and much less expensively than with new construction. Over time, we can create even more permanent supportive housing – housing with caseworkers and other on-site services. This has proven the most effective way of keeping safe and housed those who have experienced chronic homelessness.

We will earnestly work with the 39 cities of King County, as well as in the unincorporated area, and I call on our municipalities to be constructive partners in this effort to solve a collective challenge, as they have been on transportation and other regional issues.

As the work on a long-term implementation plan moves forward, we will collaborate with the Council's Regional Policy Committee, led by Councilmember Pete von Reichbauer.

Our goal with this investment is to provide a safe place to 2,000 people in the next two years, which also helps us in the fight against COVID. What’s more, we will work with organizations with cultural ties to best serve the communities that are disproportionately at risk of homelessness.

I have said many times that a sales tax is regressive and unfair. I have been fighting for more progressive revenue options for years, and hope that Olympia will finally give us the tools to do our job – tools that are fair, simple, and stable.

The fact that Washington has a terrible tax system does not change the hard truth that there is nothing more regressive than homelessness.

We cannot wait for a new tax code. Our neighbors, friends, and family members in housing distress cannot wait. This is the right thing to do, and we need to do it now.

Like many of us, I have the last few days been reflecting on the life and work of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.

She said, “Fight for the things that you care about it, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

I ask that you join in this fight, for housing, for hope, and for a better King County.

When we were alerted to the first COVID cases in King County, we immediately knew we would need to protect our hospital capacity for those most acutely ill. We moved quickly to create isolation, quarantine and recovery spaces for those who didn’t need hospitalization, but could not safely stay at home.

Simultaneously, we worked to de-intensify larger homeless shelters, where we were concerned the virus might rapidly spread.

We took over vacant hotels in Issaquah – I want to call out Mayor Mary Lou Pauly for her help with this effort – and in Bellevue, Renton, SeaTac and Seattle, and Kent.

We put up large tents on a Shoreline soccer field – thank you Mayor Will Hall and Councilmember Dombowski for helping making that happen –  and also on a vacant county parcel in Eastgate. We converted a SoDo warehouse, and set up modular shelters in North Seattle and on Elliott Avenue.

All told, we gave almost 1,400 people and families a private, quiet, and secure place to stay safe or to recover - and we saved lives.

This is what we found: shelter residents who for years had struggled with the most basic needs began to stabilize. They were able to secure their belongings, get a full night’s sleep, take a hot shower in the morning, do their laundry, and begin to get well.

I want to tell you about Janis, a 75-year-old woman who was homeless for 13 years. She transitioned from emergency shelter to a hotel we set up in Renton, and is now, finally, in a home of her own.

“It’s the first day of the rest of my life,” she told us. And she said, “And when you are 75, that’s saying a lot.”

I understand that reviewing and passing this proposal will take time, and given the fiscal cliff that we face on Dec. 30 – made possible by the ineptitude and indifference of Senate majority and President who refuses to help local governments in this national crisis – we face the very real possibility of moving hundreds of people back into crowded shelters, including going back to laying 200 mats on the floor of the Morrison Hotel across from the King County Courthouse.

We will do everything possible to avoid that fate.

As such, I am also sending to the Council a measure that would release $4.2 million from the County’s Rainy Day fund to ensure that congressional intransigence doesn’t force people to lose what safety, stability and dignity they have gained in our emergency hotel and motel rooms.
This gives a new Congress and the newly inaugurated president the opportunity to approve funding for state and local governments, and help ease the pain of the economic fallout from this pandemic.

Through careful financial management and focused attention, we have built the Rainy Day Fund from $16 million in 2011 to $26 million today, and I am believe that only the greatest threats should prompt us to use these emergency monies.

Given the lives at stake, there is no more important use for these funds.

What happens in the other Washington also impacts our Public Health department, which responded to this crisis with every last ounce of its energy and compassion.

Led by Public Health Director Patty Hayes, Dr. Jeff Duchin, and their team of epidemiologists, we connected with nursing homes, and focused on other places where large groups live closely together. We sounded the alarm, provided assistance, and re-enforced best health practices.

We set up more than 25 free testing sites, and a team of more than 50 contact tracers works to stop community spread in King County.

Public Health’s many dashboards inform people and support policy makers as they make decisions about whether current precautions are adequate, need to be strengthened, or might be carefully relaxed.

These and many other programs related to our COVID response are in jeopardy next year unless Congress acts and provides the resources for this essential work.

I want to acknowledge Chair Balducci, as well as Councilmember McDermott who serves as chair of the Board of Health, for their dedication to ensuring Public Health has the necessary tools and resources to support our communities.

The coronavirus has revealed great inequities, and focused our work in places that, in the past, have suffered from neglect and inattention. Places like the urban unincorporated areas of King County: Skyway, White Center, Fairwood, East Federal Way, East Renton.

With interest rates low, I propose bonding $20 million from General Fund revenues to create green jobs and support economic recovery. We will begin a community-engagement process to identify projects, and get to work healing our environment with jobs that pay family-wages.

My budget sets aside $10 million in seed funding for a community center in Skyway, a long-time need that has been requested from the community.
While other sources of funding will be necessary to complete the project, this is an important first step, and I want to thank Councilmember Zahilay who has advocated fiercely for this community, in which he was raised.

My budget also provides important services to the rural areas.

It includes $5.6 million that will allow for the construction and completion of a number of badly needed bridge projects, including the South 277th Street Bridge near Kent, the Upper Tokul Creek Bridge near Snoqualmie, the Ames Lake Bridge between Redmond and Carnation, and the Baring Bridge in northeastern King County.

This is not enough, but the work of Councilmember Lambert to continue fighting for appropriate funding from the state and federal government keeps us focused on doing the best we can, with what we have. 

Perhaps no agency had to change its operations more drastically than Metro Transit.

We clean and disinfect every bus, every day. We limited the number of riders per coach, upgraded air filters, suspended fares, and recently installed safety partitions – designed, engineered and fabricated by our very own Metro employees, and which I tried out a few weeks ago with Councilmember Kohl-Welles and Councilmember Dembowski, who are both strong transit advocates.

Sales taxes are expected to bring in $200 million less to Metro in the next two years, and fare revenue – when it is re-instituted next month – is also expected to be weaker. At the same time, ridership dropped by about 63 percent, and that remains steady.

Our task in the next biennium is to rebuild the mobility system, and meet our region’s transit needs where they are greatest.

We will transform the Burien route 120 into RapidRide H line, to serve 13,000 daily riders with more weekday, night-time and weekend service.

We will create a single frequent service route between Renton, Kent, and Auburn that will ultimately become the new RapidRide I line. And we will align bus service with the opening of Northgate Link light rail next fall, and Eastlink in 2023.

Despite the financial challenges, we remain steadfast in our commitment to greening the fleet, and transforming Metro into the nation’s cleanest transit agency.

I propose purchasing 40 more battery electric buses in the next two years, and building out our charging infrastructure at South Base.
Transit, and battery electric buses, are an important part of our Strategic Climate Action Plan, which includes cutting greenhouse gas emissions countywide in half by the end of the decade, a stronger focus on climate justice, and preparing the region for climate impacts.

The Strategic Climate Action Plan is part of our environmental commitment, along with our Clean Water, Healthy Habitat initiative to rethink major water quality investments; Land Conservation Initiative to preserve and protect 65,000 acres of our last, best places; and ensuring that all residents have access to open space and recreation.

These initiatives exist thanks to the work of so many in our communities, and I want to  particularly thank Councilmember Upthegrove for his interest in keeping environmental stewardship on the agenda.

My budget invests in new data and tools to measure water quality, restores shoreline on Vashon Island, and opens up new salmon habitat.

We dedicated $92 million to improve and extend Eastrail, the East Lake Sammamish Trail, the Foothills Regional Trail, and others.  Funds from our Conservation Futures Tax will preserve nearly 100 acres in cities and more than 2,000 acres in rural King County.

We live in a remarkable place, a place of forests and mountains and rivers so close they are a backdrop to our everyday moments, and a welcome retreat from our hectic lives.

The terrible wildfire smoke that hung like a pall over our region and much of the West Coast broke our hearts, raised our concerns, and strengthened our resolve to protect and preserve our natural beauty, now and forever.

This Proposed Budget – almost 700 pages long, detailing to the dollar more than 104 separate funds – can be distilled into these priorities:
We must fight this pandemic and make sure that every one of us makes it to the other side.

We must house those who currently live in places unfit for habitation, and who suffer from physical or behavioral health challenges.

We must take on 400 years of racism and oppression and make a substantial and meaningful down payment to begin an ongoing, multi-year effort to shift resources from systems that cause harm to upstream programs aligned with racial and social justice.

We must embrace the awesome responsibility of leaving our children a world that is healthier, cleaner and more sustainable than today.

My budget does all this.

And so, members of the King County Council and the people of King County, we cannot escape into the anonymity of history. We must step up. This year, 2020, will surely be remembered as one of the most pivotal of our lifetimes. How we act, what we do, the choices we make, the commitments we fulfill, will define us – not only now, but to generations to come.

In the budget I present today, I have laid out bold policies that reflect our common values, and hold us to the standards of Dr. Martin Luther King, who said: “The time is always right to do the right thing.”

We live in an extraordinary time. Let us do the right thing.
Thank you. 


Relevant links


With the investments laid out in this budget, King County puts its money where its values are. This year, 2020, will surely be remembered as one of the most pivotal of our lifetimes. How we act, what we do, the choices we make, the commitments we fulfill, will define us – not only now, but to generations to come. In the budget I present today, I have laid out bold policies that reflect our common values, and hold us to the standards of Dr. Martin Luther King, who said: "The time is always right to do the right thing."

Dow Constantine, King County Executive

The Executive has transmitted a budget that is thorough, thoughtful and reflective of the truly unprecedented situation our county has been and is still facing in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent economic fallout. I am particularly pleased that his budget includes major steps forward in providing for sustainable racial and social equality and justice reforms. It is now up to the Council to review this document carefully and pass a budget that is responsive to the needs of all our residents and workers, one that will lead to making institutional changes for racial and social justice, and be fiscally responsible in light of our current circumstances.

Jeanne Kohl-Welles, Budget Chair of the King County Council
For more information, contact:

Alex Fryer, Executive Office, 206-477-7966

King County Executive
Dow Constantine
Dow constantine portrait

Read the Executive's biography