As an organization, Quaker Voice on Washington Public Policy supports Friends in expressing their values to their legislators and to see those values embodied in policy. As actors in the democratic process, we believe that a budget is ultimately a moral document which at its core expresses what our society values, and what it doesn’t.
With this in mind, Quaker Voice has joined a growing coalition calling on Washington State to augment its currently inadequate human services. We have supported Governor Inslee’s call to double Housing and Essential Needs rent support from $198 to $400. We have supported restoring TANF funding to its 1996 levels by increasing its funding by 30%. And we have supported broadening the educational opportunities supported by the Workfirst program from one year to two years, which is available to eligible TANF recipients.
Unfortunately, the budget proposal dropped by the majority Senate caucus yesterday moves us in the opposite direction. Instead of making up for the shortfall in human services represented in this budget in additional revenues, the Senate majority has made deep cuts to essential programs that support the most vulnerable people in Washington State: low-income families, the elderly, the disabled, and homeless children. This budget:
Eliminates the Housing & Essential Needs (HEN) rent support program, impacting 4,600 disabled, extremely low income households across the state. The elimination of this program will push most of the households into homelessness. This also impacts the approximately 5,000 elderly immigrants receiving Medical Care Services because administratively, if HEN is eliminated, this population cannot access Medical Care Services.
Prohibits the State Health Care Authority from moving forward with the Medicaid Innovation Demonstration, risking $1.5 billion in federal funds (over 5 years) that wouldotherwise fund programs that serve extremely vulnerable, disabled and low-income households, including people experiencing long-term homelessness with a physical or mental health disability.
Funds many homelessness programs out of existing resources resulting in an overall cut of approximately $25 million to homelessness and affordable housing programs. These cuts will be significantly compounded if the pending sunset in 2019 of over 60% of state homelessness dollars is not reversed.
TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) funds are transferred to other programs, including higher education.
A 36-month time limit is added to the Aged, Blind and Disabled program, eliminating income supports for the extremely low-income, disabled population served by this program. This will force more people into homelessness.
Eliminates funding in Commerce’s budget for the homeless student stability act, a program aimed at serving housing and other needs of homeless students and their families.
Not all news about the budget was bad: The Senate allocated $1M in funding to pay for the establishment of the Corrections Ombuds. This is a development that Quaker Voice has supported for over a decade, and it is important to also thank legislators for the generous allocation of funds so that it can be done right.
That said, this budget proposal is a demonstration of what we have said from the beginning: That the needs and values of Washington State cannot be met without reforming our upside-down tax system in which people making less than $20,000 a year pay seven times more of their annual income than what people making over $500,000/year pay in taxes. The Senate majority caucus has attempted to sidestep this problem, but good stewardship demands that we find new sources of revenue such as a progressive income tax, a capital gains tax, and a progressively-implemented carbon tax. Please call your state senator today to voice your opposition to this version of the budget, and tell them that you value these much-needed programs. Request that they support reform to our upside-down tax system so that the needs of Washington’s most desperate can be met. You can find your senator’s contact information here: http://app.leg.wa.gov/