SEATTLE - King County Executive Dow Constantine says he'll limit spending and find new ways to save money before he considers new taxes.
In his first public address Monday since taking office, the executive also announced the hiring of a labor director to negotiate with county employees. Constantine calls it a blueprint for reform.
"We must first get our own house in order," said Constantine.
Constantine announced a new cabinet position – labor director – who will negotiate the county's 76 labor contracts. Labor is the county's biggest expense. There are 13,000 King County employees. None of them pay premiums for their taxpayer-funded health insurance. The labor director would work to change that.
"I'm going to be asking employees to consider how they can help us save money, both inside their compensation and within their departments," said Constantine.
Most county workers pay copays and deductibles when they go to the doctor. But, outside of government work, it's nearly unheard of to pay nothing for health care benefits. David Freiboth, the head of the King County Labor Council thinks it's fair.
"It's not excessive and it still represents a value to the taxpayer," said David Freiboth.
The new labor director will negotiate union contracts, including King County sheriff's deputies. That's not what Sheriff Sue Rahr says she wants.
"I would prefer to be able to deal directly with my labor unions," said Rahr.
Constantine says he will pick a labor czar who is local and knows King County labor issues. He says he'll announce who that person is next month.