The budgets contain many items of concern to Friends. Please look
through this alert and choose the topics of interest to you, then
contact your legislators to share your thoughts on the matter. You
can call the legislative hotline at (800)562-6000 to leave messages
for all three of your legislators, or see below for how to get
specific contact information for them.
The operating budget was passed last year with hundreds of millions
of dollars of cuts to social services. This past Monday, February
23, the state House and Senate each released their version of the
proposed supplemental operating budget. These bills will move very
quickly to a floor vote, and then will go into conference committee,
where legislators from both houses will try and work out the
differences between the two bills. If a bill passes but is stripped
of funding, it can sometimes be worse than not passing at all. If
the priorities we have worked for this session are to succeed, most
must be funded in the budget. On the other hand, legislators often
use the budgeting process to slip through provisions of bills that
had died earlier in the session, meaning that bill we opposed may
have been “resurrected.” What follows is FCWPP’s summary, by
category, of important provisions in the two budget proposals.
SERVICES FOR THE NEEDY
Both budget proposals contain funding for the Act for Hungry
Families – each body provided funding for its own version of the
bill. Though it is not certain which of the two bills will be the
one to pass, both are good and it is likely that at least one will
make it into law. The House bill is E2SHB 2769, and the Senate bill
is SSB 6411. FCWPP supports both bills.
The Senate budget provides $333,000 to expand the farmers market
nutrition program for women, infants and children. FCWPP supports.
The House budget eliminates all premiums charged to children on
Medicaid up to 200% of the poverty line. The Senate proposal would
charge premiums of $5-10 per month for children between 100% and 200%
of the poverty line. Even these small premiums will cause many
children to lose health coverage. FCWPP supports the House proposal.
The Senate budget would cut 4,100 people off the General Assistance
Unemployable (GAU) program, which provides a modest cash benefit (up
to $339 per month) to people temporarily unable to work due to an
illness or disability. The Senate budget cuts off anyone who has
been disabled for more than 6 months in any 24 month time period.
The House budget provides $80,000 to develop a state plan to
substantially reduce homelessness. It also provides $2 million to
provide increase civil legal services for the indigent, and $3
million to implement 2SHB 2818, creating a homeless families services
fund. FCWPP supports all three provisions.
The Senate budget has resurrected the “eco-terrorism” issue. It
provides $50,000 to create a database of organizations and
individuals believed to have participated in “eco-terrorism,” defined
as “environmentally or politically motivated crimes against animal or
natural resource facilities.” FCWPP opposes.
The Senate budget provides for a study of the Special Sex Offender
Sentencing Alternative (SSOSA). As we had hoped for, the study will
include input from all stakeholders, and it appears that no sentence
enhancements will be put into place until the study has been
completed (on November 1, 2004). FCWPP supports.
The House budget provides funding for ESHB 1869, which calls for
performance audits of tax preferences. The House budget also funds
HB 2436, increasing the income threshold for retired persons seeking
property tax relief; HB 2500, which implements the streamlined sales
and use tax; and HB 2693, allowing counties to impose a 4% excise tax
on timber harvested from public lands. FCWPP supports all 4 bills.
Please drop me a line to let me know if you have responded to this
alert. Thanks to everyone who has responded to previous alerts.
If you can, identify yourself as a Friend (Quaker) when contacting
legislators in response to these Alerts. It helps us in our work in
Contact your FCWPP Lobbying Team, Eve Rickert and Alan Mountjoy-
Venning by calling 360 754-3290, or emailing stellamom”at”pobox.com
and mountjoyv”at”comcast.net (please insert the @ symbol – publishing
e-mail addresses in public websites exacerbates spam problems).