In this edition you'll read about a coalition of advocates leading the charge to convince lawmakers to come up with new sources for revenue to maintain vital state services. You'll also read about head start slots created by last year's federal stimulus package and how the Obama administration has yet to live up to its pledge to create green jobs for low-income workers.
Whether they are severely disabled children receiving
residential care, working poor families that need subsidized health
insurance, adults who are unable to work, low-income students attending
community college, wildlife threatened by toxic chemical spills or
regular kids in overcrowded classrooms, the Coalition represents these
Washingtonians’ best hope as the state legislature grapples with a $2.6
billion budget crisis.
The Washington state Legislature's ruling Democrats took their
first serious step toward tax increases Wednesday, unveiling plans to
close an array of tax exemptions and dump the voter-approved roadblocks
that make it harder to raise revenue.
Most of us have a sense of how much a dollar will buy. But it
turns out there are times when is a buck is worth more than face value.
Even if you ignore the importance of strong public structures like K-12
education, health care and roads, those public expenditures actually
help sustain our economy — especially now, when private spending is
down during a recession. So given the state’s projected revenue
shortfall, where do we get the money? It’s worth examining whether the
numerous tax exemptions and preferences that have crept into our tax
code over the years — nearly 600 of them, at last count — still serve a
compelling public purpose.
Taxes are not the sort of thing pols talk about publicly
unless they're planning to lower them—and Gregoire's not. But she's
also trying to find a way not to raise them as she struggles to mend
the $2.6 billion hole in the state's $30.1 billion biennial operating
budget. At present, she wants to cut spending, including expanding
class sizes and eliminating some social services. She prefers to raid
the state's reserve accounts and obtain federal bailout funds to stave
off any tax increases.
Say what you will about the growth in government spending, but
Washington and other states would be in even worse straits if not for
the federal financial spigot. That was one focus of Gov. Christine
Gregoire's visit to Washington, D.C., Wednesday. Gregoire was one of 11
governors (eight Democrats and three Republicans) who met with
President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and cabinet members to
discuss energy and economic policies.
We should be celebrating the first year of the Children's
Health Insurance Reauthorization Act (CHIPRA). CHIPRA renewed the
Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and gave states new tools
and fiscal incentives to enroll more uninsured children in CHIP and its
larger companion program, Medicaid.
Gov. Chris Gregoire told reporters congressional Democrats
should not back off trying to pass health care reform, warning that
failing to act could have political repercussions. "Being timid, doing
nothing is the wrong thing to do," the governor said during a visit to
Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Feb. 3.
It turns out last year’s economic stimulus package will allow
108 more kids to attend quality early learning this year in Washington
State. Thanks to the law, the federal government is sending $933,171 to
this state to allow these kids to enroll in Children’s Home Society of
Washington’s Early Head Start programs in King and Walla Walla counties
Among people in low-income and minority communities – millions
who had felt a surge of excitement at President Obama’s vow to use his
$787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for lifting
families out of poverty – the president’s words are beginning to ring
hollow. Despite $500 million set aside to create “green jobs” for
disadvantaged workers – including a program titled “Pathways Out of
Poverty” – there is no method in place to monitor exactly where
Recovery Act dollars have landed on the ground, and few requirements to
ensure that low-income communities benefit, according to a report in
The Equal Voice Newspaper, an online venture of the Seattle-based
Marguerite Casey Foundation.
Sen. Karen Fraser has introduced a common-sense bill in the
state Legislature to prevent corrections officers from putting pregnant
inmates in leg irons or other restraints during labor or in the final
months of their pregnancy. Common sense says an inmate in labor is not
a grave security risk. And shackling women in their third trimester to
prevent an escape seems cruel and totally unacceptable.