Following up on my recent posts regarding the lousy deal King County taxpayers are getting from the state ($0.62 back on every dollar paid) compared to the astounding bargain enjoyed by Washington's Republican-leaning counties (an average of $1.40 on the dollar), I thought it time to drive a stake through the heart of at least one widely believed myth: that generous benefits to the urban poor comprise the single largest drain on our state coffers.
Well, according to the absolutely irrefutable chart above... um... not so much.
Yes, in 2008, King County benefited from the largest chunk of Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) expenditures, over $1 billion, or nearly 24 percent of the statewide total. But King is home to 29% of the state's population (while providing 42 percent of state revenues), so its per capita benefit comes to only $538, right along the lines of the other five "donor" counties. Meanwhile, such bastions of rural self-proclaimed self-sufficiency as Adams, Ferry, Pend Oreille and Okanogan counties consume per capita DSHS benefits of over $900, while Yakima—Washington's "fruit basket"—tops the charts at $1,029 per person.
To put this dependency in perspective, 83 cents of every dollar Yakima sends to Olympia is paid back in DSHS benefits alone, while tiny Ferry County actually receives more in DSHS benefits than the total revenues it pays to the state! That's in addition to schools, corrections and everything else. Really....
Now that's a picture of dependency if I ever saw one.
To be clear, I'm not making a moral argument here. I'm not advocating for cutting off the rural poor from the health and social services that help sustain them. I'm merely pointing out that, eventually, they will be cut off, because that's where a disproportionate amount of our state government costs lie, and thus that's where the savings are to be found.
Unless, that is, our fellow Washingtonians in the red parts of the state take these charts seriously, and start voting their own self interest.