Mixed bag budget not good governance

Gordon McHenry, Jr.

Gordon McHenry, Jr., Solid Ground’s President & CEO

“Yesterday, the legislature agreed to a budget with just days to spare before a state government shutdown was to take effect. This budget is a mixed bag. There are some points to celebrate, like a $1.03 billion investment in K-12 education, and the budget holds the line of safety net funding.

“However, there are a number of missed opportunities in the budget that fail to raise adequate revenue to address the long-term needs of our state,” said Solid Ground’s organizing arm, Statewide Poverty Action Network, in the budget analysis it released last week.

Indeed, for people living on low incomes in Washington State, there are some clear successes:

  • No major cuts were made to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), and a proposed cap on the number of children in TANF families who could receive benefits was defeated.
  • The state will fully implement Medicaid expansion, giving health insurance to about 250,000 people living on low incomes starting in 2014.
  • Adult dental health coverage was fully restored!
  • $70 million was invested in the Housing Trust Fund.
  • Disability Lifeline programs, ABD and HEN, were protected, supporting people with disabilities in meeting their basic needs.
  • State Food Assistance was restored to 75% (from 50%) of the federal SNAP benefit, helping immigrant families afford enough food to eat.

Stepping back from the specific gains and losses of this budget, we must address the two special session/double overtime governing.

Solid Ground clients and families living on low incomes across our state were filled with angst and uncertainty as they wondered whether they would receive their much-needed state assistance, or whether the government would shut down. They worried whether they would be able to pay rent on time or put food on their tables.

For vulnerable people across the state, this is what is at stake when legislators can’t reach a budget agreement.

Our state deserves strong leadership. By refusing to raise revenue and delaying the passage of a compassionate budget for ideological reasons, some members of the legislature put the needs of our communities at risk and, in the process, practiced incredibly bad governance.

We appreciate that the government did not shut down. We appreciate that the legislature preserved and protected our state’s safety net. And we appreciate that the state made a down payment on our paramount duty to educate our young people.

But, we expect better from our leaders. We expect leaders to rise to the occasion, to boldly address our state’s long-term problems, and to address inequities by raising much-needed revenue. And we will engage our legislators with the goal of holding them to the high standard that civic leadership requires.

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