2017 Legislative Session – Legislative Priorities

Justice, Health & Safety for all Washingtonians

Counties play an essential role in keeping Washington residents safe and secure by preserving public health and wellbeing, protecting public safety, and safeguarding justice. Enactment of the Washington State Association of Counties’ 2017 Legislative priorities will help counties sustain the basic government services that ensure justice, and protect the health and safety of all Washington citizens.

#1

Almost half of county
general fund revenues are
delivered from property
tax -by far our largest
revenue source

60%


Over 60% of the
requests for public
records are fulfilled in 5
days or less

$50M


Increase in counties’
costs for providing public
defense services from
2006-2015 (56%)

Number-1

Limit Property Tax Revenue Growth to Inflation and Population

Property taxes are counties’ top revenue source, comprising approximately 50% of general fund revenue. Property taxes are capped and can’t keep up with growing costs. Public safety and criminal justice services make up about 75% of counties’ total general fund expenditures. Thus, property taxes are inextricably tied to justice, health and safety for Washington citizens.

Number-2

Update the Public Records Act

he Public Records Act (PRA) is a cornerstone of government transparency in Washington. Counties implement the Public Records Act every day and advances in technology and increases in the volume and complexity of records requests are undermining the PRA.

Number-3

Provide Adequate Funding for Trial Court Indigent Defense Services

Access to a defense attorney in criminal matters is a basic constitutional right. Counties were assigned by the Legislature to provide adequate defense for indigent citizens; yet, the state funds less than 5% of the cost for these services. Counties currently spend approximately $136 million annually with the state providing only $6 million to cities and counties.
In order to continue effective access to justice, the Legislature must fund the full cost of trial court public defense services – $272 million additional in the next biennium.

“The state must invest significant, targeted funding in our public defense systems.”

– Status Report on Public Defense in Washington State, 2007

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Josh Weiss started working in Olympia in 1998 and in addition to spending the last 8 years at WSAC, has served as nonpartisan counsel to the House of Representatives, Legislative Director for the Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Environmental Policy Director for the Washington Forest Protection Association representing private forest landowners. Josh is a graduate of Central Washington University and the Vermont Law School, and is a fourth generation Washingtonian.