Washington Examiner

Constantine cites state property tax cap as obstacle in addressing $35M budget gap

King County Executive Dow Constantine has blamed Washington’s tax cap for ‌an anticipated $35 million general fund⁣ shortfall in 2027 as ⁣he discussed the financial and social issues facing the county during his 2024 state of ​the ‌county address. The address, which ​was delivered at a King County Council meeting, covered various topics such⁣ as behavioral health, affordable housing, homelessness, and transportation. Constantine highlighted the financial challenges posed by ‍the ⁢tax cap, particularly regarding the impending deficit⁢ that ‌could affect the county’s ability to ‌fund essential services.

(The Center Square) – King County Executive Dow Constantine is continuing to fault Washington’s tax cap as the county prepares for a $35 million general fund shortfall in 2025.

Constantine delivered his 2024 state of the county address during a King County Council meeting on Tuesday. The county executive touched on topics including behavioral health, affordable housing, homelessness and transportation.

Constantine also mentioned the looming general fund deficit that could impact the county’s public health services in particular. He has mentioned a tax cap enforced by Washington numerous times as a hindrance to King County collecting property taxes.

Since 2001, the state has instituted a 1% annual cap on property tax increases. Washington counties do not have the ability to impose business and utility taxes, unlike cities and the state.

Constantine notes that King County’s population grew by about 34% over the last 20 years, while inflation rose over 90%, causing the county to fall behind inflation and population growth to the tune of $400 million dollars per year.

“That means a whole lot of services people expect, like roads and bridges, like help for the homeless, like gun violence prevention, and more, are continually at risk,” Constantine said in his speech.

Constantine added that the county has managed to keep these services in place, albeit at a level that is not sufficient enough to meet the need, thanks to special levies implemented by King County.

The $35 million general fund shortfall could impact public health clinics in King County in particular. These clinics are one of the last general fund services not mandated by Washington state law.

“Our public health clinics and related health programs serve nearly 80,000 people – simply put, these clinics and support services provide essential care to our community’s most vulnerable – those who fall through the cracks of the U.S. healthcare system,” Constantine said.

As King County officials begin to construct the 2025 budget later this year, Constantine said he hopes to be able to propose a solution to preserve care and bolster University of Washington Medicine.

The proposed budget for 2025 is expected to be introduced sometime in September.

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