Gov. Chris Gregoire’s two-year budget proposal, released yesterday, paints a picture of a different state than the one we live in today. Among the worst impacts found in the fine print are those to programs that help Washington’s children.
Gregoire proposed the following in the two-year budget:
- Eliminating State Food Assistance, which helps put food on the table for nearly 15,000 Washington kids;
- Eliminating health coverage for 27,000 children through Apple Health for Kids;
- Dropping three-year-olds from the state's program for low-income preschoolers, the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), which will only widen the preparation gap among children of color and low-income children.
The governor also announced that she would immediately cut the income assistance of children in the state’s WorkFirst program by 15 percent. At a time when child poverty is already rising, cutting monthly assistance for the basic needs of the poorest families is not protecting kids from the impact of the Great Recession.
Missing from the governor’s budget was the other side of the balance sheet: the unaccounted-for spending, in the form of tax exemptions and loopholes, that the Washington Budget & Policy Center estimates is costing the state $6.5 billion a year. Reappraising these loopholes is an essential aspect of remedying the state’s revenue system, so that it can generate resources fairly for Washingtonians in bad times as well as good.
When legislators convene Jan. 10, we will call upon them to roll up their sleeves – and clarify their values. Will they stand strong for our children, or dismantle the structures that are safeguarding their future?
Sacrifice, in times like these, needs to be shared by all – not shifted to those who are already suffering the most. We will be there in Olympia throughout the legislative session to remind legislators of this. And we will ask them to protect the infrastructure upon which we build our future prosperity: consistent care, health coverage, food and other forms of security and opportunity for kids.