The King County Council could vote as early as Wednesday on new labor policies that eliminate automatic cost-of-living increases for county employees — must-do change for county government.

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DOWN at the King County Council, the high notes on labor practices have been few and far between. But the council is poised to adopt promising new policies that, if successful, would combine a healthy dose of leadership, nonpartisanship and a willingness to change the culture of the county.

Proposed new labor rules to be voted on as early as Wednesday — and why wait? — would eliminate the current practice of requiring automatic cost-of-living increases ranging from 2 to 6 percent a year and give Executive Dow Constantine a zero percent starting point for all wage negotiations.

The council may go further and adopt de facto policies that allow salaries to drop if the economy warrants it.

This is brand new, necessary stuff in a county that can ill afford the existing approach.

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These changes would not be possible without the hard work of Councilmember Kathy Lambert, who ran originally as a Republican, and Council Chairman Bob Ferguson, who ran as a Democrat.

Lambert has worked tirelessly on this policy change for years. Ferguson is taking considerable heat from labor for sticking his neck out on policies that may be anathema to his constituents. Ferguson’s work should inspire other Democrats on the council to join him in moving the county forward to the 21st century.

Though voters recently approved a nonpartisan council, its behavior in recent months has been anything but. Lambert and Ferguson deserve piles of praise for working across the partisan divide to put together new rules that do away with outdated labor practices the county can no longer afford.

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