(The Center Square) – King County wants more for its money at the Washington State Association of Counties.
WSAC collects membership dues on the basis of county population and King County’s share is about $500,000. WSAC has long recognized the challenge of having a single county account for approximately 25% of the association’s budget.
Last year King County told WSAC it wanted more voting power and a few other changes if it was going to pay full dues, according to Spokane County Commissioner Mary Kuney, who presided as president at the association’s annual meeting that concluded in Spokane on Nov. 8.
Kuney said King County has not always felt its voice has been heard when adopting the legislative agenda.
A bylaws committee worked on the issues and presented the results. All of the changes were adopted except weighted voting, which failed to get the necessary two-thirds approval of members present.
“Having weighted voting is a new topic and one meeting to discuss wasn’t enough,” Kuney said.
WSAC meets once a year. All county commissioners and elected county executives are eligible to vote but must attend the meeting either in person or virtually.
Kuney pointed out this arrangement already provides a de facto weighted vote.
“If people are passionate, they have to show up to vote, and only one member showed up from King County” out of the 10 eligible voting members. She was disappointed the full delegation was not there to state their case.
The challenge of apportioning power is common in many statewide associations.
Kuney recalled conversation at the National Association of Counties related to counties in Colorado, where the degree of population variation from smallest to largest is similar to Washington.
She also pointed to the recent vote by the Washington State School Directors Association, which went in a different direction. WSSDA voted in September to drop the weighted voting that had given a few large districts control of the agenda and has adopted a one-district, one-vote rule.
Kuney expects the new president of WSAC, Lisa Janicki of Skagit County, will call for a new bylaws committee to continue to wrestle with the issue in preparation for the 2024 annual meeting.
The budget adopted at this year’s meeting allows King County to pay half dues and be considered current if paid by June 30, 2024, in the hopes that discussions on the issue will continue.
“Our goal is to keep all 39 counties working together on common values and the metrics to achieve them,” Janicki said.
Michael White, state relations director for the King County Executive Office, had made it clear verbally to Janicki that King County needed both dues relief and weighted voting in order to stay on board with WSAC. King County requested an additional reduction in dues at the annual meeting, prompting Pierce and Snohomish to request similar reductions.
The 2024 budget was adopted with the 50% dues decrease for King County as a “flag of goodwill,” according to Janicki.
“We can’t go too far in weighting voting to create a situation where three counties can block any action requiring a two-thirds vote,” she said. “We won’t know until King County adopts its 2024 budget if they are still at the table.”