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 King County Bar Press Release on County Sales Tax Increase for Justice System

For Immediate Release
May 20, 2010

Contact: Andrew Prazuch

Urge County Council to Let Voters Decide

SEATTLE -- The largest voluntary bar association in the Northwest today called on the King County Metropolitan Council to let the people of King County decide this August whether or not to approve a sales tax increase aimed at funding critical justice system programs.

By a unanimous vote of its Board of Trustees, the King County Bar Association (KCBA) found that further budget cuts to the county's justice system will result in an over-stressed and ultimately unequal justice system. New revenues such as the proposed sales tax increase are necessary to maintain current levels of service by our courts, prosecutors, and defenders.

"We stand with our presiding judges, county prosecutor, and sheriff in urging the County Council to put this modest sales tax increase on the August ballot," said James Andrus, KCBA President. "In response to the recession, the county has already made difficult but responsible cuts of over $200 million to its budget over the past two years, reducing it from $837 million to $628 million today. Now without new revenues, we face another $140 million in budget cuts. Law enforcement and the justice system will not be able to adequately carry out their responsibilities to maintain public safety and guarantee due process under the law at such a dangerously low budget level. The people of King County should decide whether they want to take such risks."

The bar association noted that additional cuts to the justice system budget will result in the loss of family court support services, putting children at risk in complex divorce and separation situations. It will also mean the elimination of juvenile and district court probation officers, the removal of phone access to the court clerk, and the end of important relicensing programs designed to keep the county's streets safe.

"Our citizens deserve to be heard on this issue," Andrus remarked. "If the public says no to this small $40 per year (11 cents a day) increase per household, then the Council must continue with draconian cuts to the level of county government services. But why not let the voters have their say? We should respect their judgment."

Founded in 1886, KCBA is the largest voluntary bar association in the state of Washington, representing over 14,000 attorneys in King County including attorneys, judges, and law professors. Its mission is to support its diverse membership by promoting a just, collegial, and accessible legal system and profession; to work with the judiciary to achieve excellence in the administration of justice; and to serve the local community through organized pro bono legal services.


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