Opinion

King County Council returns to partisanship | Craig Groshart

The King County Council used to be a partisan body. It appears it still is, despite the fact that voters several years ago mandated that all nine council seats be non-partisan.

On May 10, the council passed a resolution (5-4) praising the national health care plan passed recently by Congress. The five “yes” votes came from council members Larry Phillips, Bob Ferguson, Julia Patterson, Larry Gossett and Jan Drago. They’re all Democrats. The four “no” votes came from council members Jane Hague, Kathy Lambert, Reagan Dunn and Pete von Reichbauer — all Republicans.

Political labels aside, we wonder about the wisdom of embracing the plan, given the state of the county budget.

According to a non-partisan staff report prepared for the council, the new health care legislation could cost the county between $18 million and $34 million.

We already have the county facing a $60 million budget shortfall. The budget gap is so severe that King County Executive Dow Constantine has proposed putting an increased sales tax on the August ballot. It would mostly go toward public safety.

Equally questionable is the council majority voting on what amounts to a political shot at state Attorney General Rob McKenna (a Republican) for joining some other attorneys general in the country in opposing a portion of the national legislation, which forces individuals to buy health insurance or face a fine. McKenna’s argument is that the U.S. Constitution forbids the feds from doing that. We don’t know if that’s true, but it’s worth checking out.

The Democrats on the county council also added praise for Gov. Chris Gregoire (a Democrat) for opposing McKenna. Of course doing that will require the state to hire private attorneys to duel it out with McKenna.

If the Democrats on the county council have so much time on their hands, perhaps they can work on getting the county’s budget under control. That’s something both Democrats and Republicans would embrace.

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