In this edition, reporters and commentators size up the consequences of another state budget shortfall, while one paper considers the idea of ending tax loopholes instead of basic services. A public safety leader urges a vote against Initiative 1183. A new agreement will curtail the number of times a foster child moves from home to home; and a Spokane organization starts an initiative to enroll thousands of uninsured teens in Apple Health for Kids.
Enter a magical world where big problems simply disappear because there’s no money to fix them. A glimpse of that make-believe world can be found in the budget proposals released Thursday by Gov. Chris Gregoire. Gregoire doesn’t believe in magic herself, but enough Washingtonians do that her budget had to play along.
[T]here are more than 500 tax breaks in Washington state. In aggregate, they cost us billions of dollars in foregone resources each year. Some, like the sales tax exemptions on food, serve a valid public purpose and should be retained. Others, like large agribusinesses receive a complete B&O tax exemption. Should that continue when core public health and education priorities are on the line?
Proposed reductions also target the Department of Early Learning, with cuts totaling more than $18 million. The governor is suggesting the state cut the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) for all three-year-olds.
The studies are clear: There is a clear connection between the availability of liquor and public-safety problems such as higher rates of underage drinking, higher rates of violence and higher rates of drunken driving.
...[W]hile the committee members battle secretly over taxing the rich or cutting programs for the poor, the automatic cuts that will take affect if the committee fails to reach an agreement would create a greater imbalance between the old and the young than between the wealthy and the poor. “When push comes to shove they are going to cut programs for the kids,” said Ron Haskins, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institute.
A key finding: Medicaid funding cuts wouldn’t actually save money; they’d simply shift costs from the federal government to the individual states, hospitals and people without medical insurance. Since they would be unlikely to make up the difference, the result would be a decline in the quality and availability of health care for low-income families, from children's vaccinations to annual physicals to hospice care.
An agreement signed Monday will require changes over the next two years in the way Washington social workers deal with the 9,000 children in the foster care system in the state. The agreement will
increase the number of caseworker visits, reduce the number of times a child is moved from home to home, and help keep biological siblings together.
There are an estimated 40,000 teens in Washington who don’t have health insurance and thus don’t go to the doctor for regular check-ups. Health For All, a nonprofit agency, expects to enroll or renew 14,000 teens in the Apple Health for Kids program within two years.