Children’s Alliance staff looked on last Wednesday as Gov. Chris Gregoire signed the two-year budget for July 2011 through June 2013, capping months of work by lawmakers to deal with the lingering impact of the recession. As we’ve said before, the budget makes damaging cuts to kids. One of the governor's actions will do nothing to repair the harm.
The governor has the authority to veto sections of the budget. She used her veto pen on an item that helped working families make ends meet: a proviso stipulating that the Working Connections Child Care program would remain eligible to families earning up to 175 percent of the federal poverty level.
While her veto does not mean that cuts are on their way, the proviso had offered assurance to thousands of families that they could access child care. Now, they can’t be sure that their child care assistance will stick around to help them make ends meet while good-paying jobs are scarce.
There are difficult economic times ahead. The state's fiscal reserves are at one-quarter the amount lawmakers had put in them last month. Along with our partners, advocates for kids had sought a balanced approach mixing spending cuts with revenue solutions – but the budget the governor signed last Wednesday wasn’t it.
In this uncertain climate, more cuts to Working Connections and Seasonal Child Care may be on the horizon. If they are, parents and their supporters across the state will reiterate what they so often said during the past legislative session: child care assistance is a vital part of our economic recovery.