Opinion

King County’s fantasy world has got to end | Craig Groshart

Four members of the King County Council are balking at putting a sales tax boost on the August ballot.

Reagan Dunn and Jane Hague (both of whom represent portions of Bellevue), Kathy Lambert and Peter von Reichbauer don’t like the idea of raising taxes while taxpayers still are climbing out of a recession.

Good for them. Let’s hope this sends a message to the rest of the King County Council.

Four of those members — council chairman Bob Ferguson, Julia Patterson, Jan Drago and Larry Gossett — want the 0.2 percent sales tax increase to go before the voters in August. Councilmember Larry Phillips says he is not so eager about putting the tax on the ballot, but is leaning in that direction.

The council’s problem, beyond good sense by the apparent majority, is that putting the issue on the August ballot would require the council to declare an emergency. That takes six votes. There certainly are four votes, maybe five.

Let’s hope that the sixth is hard to buy.

King County does have a financial problem. It faces the need to cut $60 million from its budget.

Making things worse, much of the county’s budget goes toward public safety: Police, prosecutors, judges and jailers. Cutting there could put the public at risk.

However, I’m not convinced that this is the only place to cut.

Do those who argue for higher taxes really believe that there’s nowhere in county government where cuts can be made except in public safety? Are they really arguing that even if cuts have been made elsewhere, the people who are left in non-public safety positions somehow are more needed, more important than those in public safety itself?

It’s easy to argue that a 0.2 percent sales tax increase isn’t really that much. It’s easy to argue that the benefit of the tax overrides the pain inflicted on residents.

That’s nonsense.

King County’s problem is that it never wants to cut back. It always first seeks to find more revenue to expand government programs and workers’ paychecks. When that doesn’t work, it puts the most important jobs on the chopping block and forces the public to try and say “no” to money for police.

Private businesses can’t and don’t operate that way. Individuals and families can’t and don’t, either.

King County’s fantasy world has got to end.

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