It's a busy day in our newspaper cycle today, so I'm going to let the press releases do the talking about today's big senate budget cuts, which decimate human services, basic health care, education, and pretty much everything that isn't specifically protected by the state constitution.
First up, the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance:
Affordable housing advocates say the Senate’s budget, which cuts health care, assistance for people too sick or disabled to work, and programs that help former foster youth avoid homelessness, is the wrong approach to balancing the budget in the middle of the most severe recession in modern times.
“We have the power to choose what kind of state we want Washington to be,” said Rachael Myers, Executive Director of the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance. “Everyone should have the opportunity to live in a safe, decent, affordable home. We can make smart investments in housing and other systems that will help people weather this storm or we can make short-sighted cuts. The Senate’s cuts undermine our State’s economic recovery and the wellbeing of families who are struggling. We hope to see our legislators make better choices when the House releases its budget tomorrow.”
The Washington Education Association:
The proposed state budget released today by Senate Ways and Means Chair Margarita Prentice cuts more than $2 billion from K-12 and higher education and could cause as many as 5,000 educators to lose their jobs.
It cuts more than $500 million from higher education, a cut that higher ed won’t recover from in decades. Legislators have said the budget will reduce college enrollment by 10,000 students statewide.
The home health care workers:
While the budget crisis is bad news for all public employees, Senate Democrats chose to inflict the deepest pain on the lowest paid workers — home care workers who care for vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities.
“If budgets reflect values, what does it say about Democrats when they choose to treat the lowest paid employees the worst,” asks SEIU Healthcare 775NW Vice-President Adam Glickman. “The budget cuts wages for home care workers who make $15,000 a year, and will force 6000 caregivers to drop their health coverage. What kind of Democratic value is that?”
The Washington State Hospital Association:
The Senate budget proposal, released today, makes severe cuts to the health care safety net. If enacted, it would cause 45,000 people to become uninsured virtually overnight — on top of the tens of thousands who have already lost their health insurance because of job loss.
“Now is the absolute wrong time to cut services as more people lose their jobs and health insurance,” said Diane Sosne, RN and president of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW. “Eliminating our health care safety net doesn’t mean people don’t need health care — it means they’ll have to get it someplace else at a higher cost, or not at all.”
NARAL Pro-Choice Washington:
Among other steep cuts, the proposed budget slashes $1 million in funding for birth control and other family planning services for low-income women and teens.
“We are disappointed in the Senate budget,” said Karen Cooper, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington. “This budget represents a sharp decline in all the services provided by the state, including a 10% cut in family planning care.”
“If these family planning funds are not restored, the consequences will be felt not only by the women of our state, but by taxpayers as well,” added Cooper. “Quite simply, birth control saves money.”
[Added] The Washington Environmental Council:
The proposed state budget would:
Leave our water and coastal areas more susceptible to devastating pollution like oil spills. Weakening of the state oil spills program for the Puget Sound and costal beaches— a $1.9 million reduction will mean 135 fewer vessels boarded and inspected and fewer oil response drills in our waterways. The Oil Spill Oversight Council will also be eliminated.
Reduce public participation in toxic cleanups, which has been a cornerstone of Washington’s way of life. The entire $2 million program is eliminated for public participation grants making it impossible for the public to have a meaningful role in decision making for toxic cleanup in their back yards.
Harm efforts to protect our water quality by elimination of the Water Quality Account which provides the money for local water quality projects around the state like sewage treatment plants. 18 staff would be lost in the Department of Ecology’s water quality program.
Decrease our capacity to clean up Puget Sound. 7 out of 35 Puget Sound clean up staff would be cut in Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Lose experts where they’re critically needed. 75% of scientists for the Forest and Fish rules would be cut, which severely hampers the state’s ability to respond on salmon recovery issues. 73% of staffing around Watershed science would be eliminated, which hampers the state’s ability to respond on salmon recovery issues, as well as around sprawl
Increase risk of fires and infestation in our forests. Due to the elimination of the Department of Natural Resources’ Forest Health Program there would be increased risk of forest fires and infestation of invasive bugs and diseases. Fire protection is reduced by almost $5 million increasing risk of property damage and loss to our timber industry.
Decrease our ability to plan for Washington’s future with a 1/3 cut of Growth Management Act assistance to local governments. Growth Management Act hearing boards have been cut from 3 to 1.
The Statewide Poverty Action Network:
The budget proposed by the Senate:
·Cuts 42% of the Basic Health Plan, which provides health care coverage to individuals earning less than 200% of the federal poverty level, or approximately $21,000 per year. This means 40,000 fewer people with health coverage at a time when unemployment rates are at a high and laid off workers have lost coverage provided by employers.
·Reduces vital General Assistance (GA-U) cash grants by 80%. The GA-U program provides small cash grants to adults who are disabled and unable to work. Without these cash grants and the medical coverage that accompanies them, disabled GA-U recipients will not have the means to survive. GA-U medical coverage was also cut by 24%.
·Cuts 75% from Adult Day Health services, which provides skilled nursing and rehabilitative therapy for seniors and adults with medical or disabling conditions. This program also assists with activities of daily living, such as bathing, grooming and toileting.
·Results in major layoffs, with 8,000-9,000 state employees losing their jobs, in addition to the thousands who will be let go because of the reduction in state program funding.
Taken together, there's only one way to look at this budget: It's a bloodbath, one in which the poorest and most vulnerable are being asked to sacrifice the most.