King County Council on Nov. 17 passed a $12.59 billion biennial budget for 2021-2022, providing funding for anti-racist programs, transformation of the criminal legal system, public health and major investment in regional supportive housing.
The approved budget represents major investments against historical racism and oppression, including around the criminal legal system. The Council approved proposals to shift $4.6 million in marijuana excise tax revenue away from law enforcement and toward community-based programs that support reversing some of the disproportionate damage the war on drugs has placed on Black communities.
“I’m proud that the Council and the Executive stood together in a time of pandemic and economic crisis to build a budget that provides critical services while retaining the flexibility to navigate the ongoing economic uncertainty we all face,” said King County Council Chair Claudia Balducci. “We are making sound investments in programs and projects that will make a difference to people now, while positioning the County toward a better and more equitable future.”
The Council added requirements in the budget for Metro to reimagine its transit police duties and operations and to report on the future of fare collection, all with an eye toward making transit more equitable and accessible to all.
Beyond funding the Restorative Community Pathways diversion program with more than $6 million that will provide comprehensive, community-based services to 800 young people in lieu of filing criminal charges, the Council also added a requirement that $1.5 million be used to build capacity at community-based organizations involved in work related to the restorative community pathways diversion program.
While the budget did push for transformation of law enforcement and the criminal legal system, it also continued to invest in policies that help keep communities safe, including adding $1.2 million and four full-time employees to support expansion of electronic home monitoring to 24/7.
Additionally, the Council approved as part of the budget $500,000 to fund pre-apprenticeship programs in two South King County school districts to help better prepare students entering high-paying trades and technical careers through apprenticeship training. This funding is included as part of the county’s priority hire program.
Included in the budget is a small sales tax increase that will allow the county to create permanent supportive housing for up to 2,000 people suffering from chronic homelessness. The approved measure will use bonding against proceeds from a 0.1% sales tax increase generating $340 million to purchase disused existing hotels, motels, and nursing homes to provide housing quickly for those who need it most.
Additionally, the approved budget invests in community engagement and support programs, including $1 million for a White Center Community HUB project, $1.65 million to extend the Public Defenders Association’s JustCARES program that provides emergency housing and support services for individuals suffering from chronic homelessness in Pioneer Square and Chinatown/International District with planning to take place to expand the program to Ballard Commons, Lake City, West Seattle Junction and other urban villages.
The budget also includes $2 million to support MIDD behavioral health and recovery programs reduced by the loss of sales tax revenue during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In addition, with future federal funds unknown at this time, the budget adds $4.25 million for an additional month to operate isolation and quarantine facilities related to COVID-19 in King County.
With Metro facing a $200 million shortfall in expected sales tax revenue, the Council-approved budget helps ensure that transit continues to provide its vital services across the county and works to improve access for all.
Funding included in the budget will support expansion of youth ORCA card distribution and transit education in schools, planning for restart of RapidRide lines, updates to Access paratransit, a study on the feasibility of transit-oriented development at the Shoreline Park and Ride, and much more.
Additionally, $500,000 is included to begin planning for previously studied water taxi routes from Kenmore and Shilshole (Ballard).