One out of every 14 children in Washington state has at least one parent who is or has been incarcerated. These 109,000 kids’ counterparts nationwide total 5.1 million. The number of children affected by incarceration in Washington is 6.5 times greater than the number of inmates in the state’s 12 correctional centers. The needs of these children, as they face increased risks and significant obstacles in life, are usually overlooked.
In a new KIDS COUNT report released today, A Shared Sentence: The Devastating Toll of Parental Incarceration on Kids, Families and Communities, the Annie E. Casey Foundation proposes recommendations that state and local policymakers should adopt to help the children and families of inmates.
While states spend heavily on corrections, few resources exist to support children and families who are left behind. These kids and families often struggle with emotional and financial instability as a result of having an incarcerated parent. Many children of incarcerated parents experience increased poverty and stress—which research shows can have as much impact on their well-being as abuse or domestic violence.
Findings from the report include:
- Seven percent of children in Washington state (109,000) have a parent that is or has been incarcerated, which is identical to the national rate. Among states, the percentage of children with an incarcerated parent varies dramatically, from only 3 percent in New Jersey to 13 percent in Kentucky.
- Nationally, the number of children with a father in prison nearly doubled between 1991 and 2007, and those with a mother behind bars more than doubled. Children with a parent who is incarcerated are typically younger and living in low-income families of color, usually with a young single mother who has limited education. Most are younger than 10.
- Nationally, more than 15 percent of the children with parents in federal prison—and more than 20 percent with parents in state prison—are younger than 4. Compared with their white peers, African-American and Latino kids are seven and three times more likely, respectively, to have a parent incarcerated.
The KIDS COUNT report offers common-sense steps officials can take to address the increased poverty and stress that children of incarcerated parents experience, as well as to address the disproportional toll of incarceration on families and communities of color. They include:
- Ensuring children are supported while parents are incarcerated, as well as after they return;
- Connecting parents that have returned to the community with pathways to employment; and
- Strengthening communities, particularly those disproportionally affected by incarceration and re-entry, to promote family stability and opportunity.
In Washington state, progress is being made to support the families of people who are incarcerated. This past legislative session, the House and Senate unanimously passed a law allowing formerly incarcerated adults to petition a court for a “Certificate of Restoration of Opportunity” that would become part of the adult’s record—showing potential landlords and employers that the former prisoner has fulfilled the conditions of their sentence and is paying off (or has paid off) any fines. This improves opportunities for housing and employment. House Bill 1390 was also introduced, which would have eased the financial blow of incarceration on a family experiencing incarceration. While the bill did not pass, its introduction is illustrative of building momentum in our state to reduce the impact of incarceration on families.
The confinement of a parent should not close the doors to opportunity for a child and their family forever. Washington state lawmakers should work alongside communities and families that have experienced incarceration to enact common-sense reforms that reverse the damage of incarceration on kids, families, and communities.
Your tax dollars help to make the lives of Washingtonians better. From college scholarships to affordable health coverage, public safety to parks, state investments from tax dollars serve the common good. These investments are essential to creating the kind of state in which everyone has the opportunity to thrive.
This infographic (which we encourage you to share far and wide) provides a breakdown of how state and local taxes invest in Washington’s people and communities:
Click here to see the full infographic.
And here are just three of the many ways state and federal investments made possible by tax dollars have helped Washingtonians over the past few years:
- 241,000 Washington kids have a better shot at getting ahead. A 2015 KIDS COUNT report found that the many programs that help kids and families – including school lunch programs, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and cash assistance – helped lift 241,000 children out of poverty between 2011 and 2013. That cut the poverty rate among Washington’s kids in half.
- The implementation of the Affordable Care Act means 300,000 more Washingtonians can see a doctor when they need to. This is according to the 2015 U.S. Census report that showed a 5 percent increase in the number of people in our state who have obtained health coverage since 2013. That’s equivalent to almost the entire population of the cities of Everett and Tacoma combined.
- We have seen progress in improving the health of Washington’s environment. Over the past 15 years, investments in environmental protections have allowed Washington to make some strides toward cleaning up its air, water, and land. For example, the 2015 Progress Index showed that the percentage of people impacted by drinking water that doesn’t meet water-quality standards decreased from 5 percent to just 0.2 percent between 2000 and 2012. And the percentage of hazardous waste recycled by businesses and other facilities increased from 16 percent to 24 percent between 2000 and 2013.
While we celebrate these successes, we also recognize we still have much work to do to ensure that our state has adequate funding in its budget. If we really want all Washingtonians to have the opportunity to live healthy, productive lives, we need a state budget that provides the investments to do so. Yet our state’s economy and progress continue to be threatened by some short-sighted policymakers who refuse to support raising the resources necessary to provide high-quality K-12 schools, clean up toxic sites across the state, and provide emergency services that we all rely on.
In fact, too many lawmakers simply won’t take common-sense steps to ensure there is enough revenue to invest in these critical areas unless the public demands it. It’s up to those of us who envision a better Washington to change the dialogue about how essential tax dollars are to our state’s prosperity. Powerful, common-sense solutions to our state’s funding shortfall exist – like fixing our state’s broken tax system (a system that forces people with the lowest incomes to pay the highest state tax rates), closing wasteful tax loopholes for big corporations, and taxing capital gains for those with the highest incomes.
When we come together to push for these solutions, we can get on track toward creating a just and prosperous state. That is why the Budget & Policy Center is teaming up with an incredible group of experts and community leaders at Fuse Washington, Sound Alliance, OneAmerica, Spokane Alliance, Progress Alliance, and others to launch All In for Washington – a multi-year effort to help people understand why cleaning up our tax code and unlocking new sources of revenue is so critical to our state’s future.
Stay tuned for an announcement with many more details about the powerful work this campaign is doing in Olympia and in key communities throughout the state this year and beyond! In the meantime, you’re invited to attend one of All In’s upcoming messaging workshops throughout the state on “A New Narrative on Taxes, Revenue, and Government.” Here’s the schedule and registration info about the messaging roadshow.
And on this Tax Day, we hope you will talk with your friends, family, co-workers, neighbors, and social media friends about how important taxes are to our economy and the health of our communities. Together, let’s be All In for Washington!
Many Washingtonians who struggled during the recession are now on more stable footing thanks to the economic recovery, but there are still many people in our state who are facing barriers to employment and unable to make ends meet. And as of this month, thousands of those Washingtonians, including many veterans and homeless people, are losing their access to the Supplemental Assistance Program (SNAP), a critical tool to help them put food on the table.
Strict time limits are being reinstated for SNAP – or Basic Food in Washington state – for non-disabled, childless adults who are unable to find full-time employment. This will result in some of our most vulnerable populations throughout the state facing an increase in hunger and hardship.
It's not too late for lawmakers to rethink the decision to allow these time limits to be reinstated.
The 1996 federal welfare reform law originally imposed time limits on individuals who are not working or participating in a 20-hour per week work training program. Those individuals could only receive SNAP for three months out of any three years. However, during the economic recession, states like Washington rightly chose to waive this rule in areas of high unemployment. Unfortunately, states have begun to re-impose the time limit as the economy improves. In Washington state, approximately 15,000 childless adults who have previously qualified for SNAP who are living in King, Snohomish, and parts of Pierce County are no longer receiving food assistance as of this month.
A new report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities sheds more light on who is impacted by these cuts:
- Those facing cuts to food assistance are some of the poorest in the state, including those who are homeless, veterans, and part-time workers. Impacted individuals have extremely low incomes – an average of $2,000 per year for a single person in 2015. Many live in rural areas where poverty can be especially high and jobs are few and far between. In addition, the number of underemployed workers (i.e. those who work fewer hours than they wish, or in jobs for which they are overqualified or underpaid) among communities of color remains especially high, further evidence that our economic recovery is not being felt equally for all Washingtonians (see graphic).
- Many of those impacted do not qualify for any other forms of assistance to help them get enough to eat or make ends meet. The reinstatement of the three-month time limit is especially detrimental to this population as there are no other benefits available to most unemployed workers without children.
- Many face significant barriers to employment, including limited education and skills, or are caring for elderly, sick, or disabled relatives. This impacts their ability to find work. And those people who do find work often struggle to meet the 20-hour requirement.
Although the overall unemployment rate is falling in Washington state, other labor market data indicate that many people who want to work still cannot find jobs, while others who want to work full-time can find only part-time employment (see graphic). In addition, access to employment programs is limited in most states. This means that a number of individuals will lose SNAP regardless of how hard they are looking for work or how much they want to attend a job training program. Many of those impacted are already working, but may not be able to find the hours needed to meet the requirement.
[Click on graphic to enlarge it.]
Cutting off this basic assistance to keep food on the table for the poorest Washingtonians will not mean that these people will be better able to find employment or more hours of work. It will simply mean that people who are already having a hard time making ends meet will now have to deal with increased hunger on top of everything else.
While congressional action to reverse or limit this draconian rule seems unlikely, states can take steps to limit its impact. In Washington state, lawmakers and advocates have taken some laudable steps to do so: They're extending the waiver in areas still struggling with high unemployment, increasing access to job training programs, and examining rules and exemptions to ensure that individuals are not arbitrarily cut off. Nevertheless, 15,000 Washingtonians could still face even more hardship as a result of these limits. And more needs to be done.
To learn more about the SNAP time limits and their impacts on communities, read this new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
*The previous version of this post did not mention the steps that Washington is taking to limit the impact of these federal SNAP time limits. The post has been updated to provide more detailed information about some of the protections in place for people facing losses to food assistance. Thank you to Christina Wong, Public Policy Manager with Northwest Harvest, for contributing to this post.
While the final 2016 supplemental operating budget makes some important progress on addressing Washington state’s most emergent needs – like the teacher shortage, the homelessness crisis, and wildfires – the deal is nevertheless shortsighted. Until lawmakers craft a budget that invests in all of the resources people and communities across the state need to thrive, we will fail to move the needle on improving our economy and on the issues that matter most to Washingtonians.
The budget deal reached by lawmakers focuses on addressing a set of emergencies that can no longer be ignored. To fund these emergencies, lawmakers rely on shifting resources away from other major priorities and using funds from the Budget Stabilization Account, the state’s rainy day fund that should typically be used during economic downturns (see chart). The final budget is a $191 million net increase from the 2015-2017 enacted budget. Noteworthy changes and exclusions include:
COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT & TRUST
- $190 million to cover the costs of 2015’s wildfires. Resources taken from the rainy day fund will be used to address the unexpected costs of the worst wildfire season in our state’s history.
- No major investments to adequately fund K-12 education per the McCleary ruling. Lawmakers put off the task of adequately funding our public schools until next session, leaving students and schools across the state without the resources they need to obtain and provide a high-quality education.
- $1.2 million to help close the education opportunity gap. Lawmakers took steps to close the opportunity gap in education by implementing several recommendations from the Educational Opportunity Gap Oversight and Accountability Committee, including: reducing discipline for students of color, instituting mandatory cultural competency training for teachers and staff, and requiring better, more detailed racial and ethnic data for students.
- $13 million to improve the availability and quality of family child care centers, but no major investment in the Early Start Act. The additional resources cover a collective bargaining agreement reached in 2015 and will help increase the number of slots and improve the affordability of family child care. However, no significant progress was made on advancing the Early Start Act, which needs additional resources to increase availability and affordability of early learning opportunities.
- $5 million to recruit and retain high-quality teachers, but no salary increase. Lawmakers failed to provide teachers with a pay increase, but a small amount of resources are provided to recruit and retain new teachers and para-educators in response to Washington state's teacher shortage.
HEALTHY PEOPLE & ENVIRONMENT
- Reduced funding to address toxic cleanup. Lawmakers continue to raid the Model Toxics Control Account (MCTA) to balance the general fund. MCTA resources are supposed to be spent on cleaning up more than 5,700 toxic sites across the state, preventing harmful air and water pollution, and funding community participation grants so the public can address a toxic pollution threat. The funding cuts or delays are in response to a dramatic drop in revenue from polluters across the state.
- $41 million in additional resources to treat and support people with mental illness. The additional resources will be used to support Western State Hospital, expand medical staff, and increase community-level services.
- $11 million for programs supporting homeless youth. The investment will create 23 new HOPE beds, which provide shelter, support, and permanency planning for street youth. These resources also include other temporary services for homeless youth, much of which will flow to counties.
- $49 million reduction in state funding for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). By far, one of the most egregious changes to the state budget is the continued “sweeping” of resources out of TANF to balance the state budget. Previous cuts to TANF – the primary program to help families with low incomes to find or keep a job – have kicked people off of the program, and made it harder to get on, resulting in a caseload decline. Lawmakers continue to funnel the resources from this program to balance the budget.
The final budget deal did avoid a revenue-draining tax break for giant media corporations, which was welcome news. And while many of the investments made this session are laudable, the fact that our state budget only allows for investment in issues that have reached the point of emergency should alert lawmakers to the problem underlying these crises – a broken revenue system and a prevailing anti-tax sentiment is preventing us from having the investments we need to allow Washingtonians and our economy to make progress.
Scrambling to deal with emergencies, dipping into rainy day funds, and cutting important programs is just bad business. Crafting a budget that makes real progress for the people and economy of
Washington state requires lawmakers to take bold steps and big thinking to ensure that there is enough revenue to prepare for the long-term needs of our state.
Those who believe that the $57 million in new tax resources included in the Washington State Senate's latest budget proposal represents a significant compromise in the ongoing budget negotiations are in for a big disappointment.
The new resources are no compromise from the Senate leaders’ rigid position of being against any new taxes to support schools and other priorities. Rather, they are a one-time payoff from large TV, cable, and media companies in exchange for a permanent tax cut that in the years ahead will cost the state millions of dollars that could have been used to help build a stronger economy.
Worse, this sweetheart tax deal sets a troubling precedent: It rewards businesses that don’t fulfill their civic duties and that evade paying the taxes that are needed to support safe communities, public infrastructure, and other investments that benefit all Washingtonians.
For at least the past six years, many large national media companies that supply TV shows, movies, and other content to local broadcast stations have been dodging Business & Occupation (B&O) taxes on their advertising and royalty-income-generating activities in Washington state.
Before 2010, these and certain other businesses were able to avoid paying taxes on their activities in Washington state if they had no employees, agents soliciting sales, or property located here. In 2010, lawmakers wisely plugged that tax loophole, requiring these businesses to pay taxes on the portion of their incomes generated in our state.
But many large TV and cable companies failed to comply, avoiding about $11 million per year in B&O taxes tied to their Washington-based advertising activities, according to estimates from the state Department of Revenue. And now there is a threat of legal action from national media conglomerates doing business in Washington state that would seek to prevent the Department from collecting their unpaid taxes and enforcing the law in the future.
Senate Bill 6665 – heard in the Senate Ways & Means Committee on March 11 along with the Senate’s latest budget proposal – would reward these businesses for shirking their responsibilities to Washington state. Companies in the mix would likely include multibillion-dollar corporations like Comcast-NBCUniversal and Fox Broadcasting Company.
Under the proposal, all fines and penalties assessed on unpaid taxes from June 2010 to July 2016 would be waived for any business that pays by October 2016. And the actual amount the companies owe in unpaid taxes from that time period would be cut in half.(1) Their tax responsibility moving forward would also be cut in half.
The upshot is that under SB 6665 there would be a one-time, $57 million boost in B&O tax revenues in our state from national media corporations as they rush to take advantage of a massive giveaway of public money that they’d be crazy to turn down. The deal allows them to pay a mere fraction of their total unpaid tax bills now and receive a large permanent reduction later.
Far from being a needed breakthrough that would enable policymakers to make real progress on addressing the many challenges communities face across our state, the latest Senate budget is really just more of the same: unsustainable gimmicks and wasteful tax breaks for large, profitable corporations that don’t need them.
(1) Under current law, these companies are required to pay B&O taxes on about 2.2 percent of their total nationwide advertising income, which amounts to an estimated $730 million per year, according to the Department of Revenue. But SB 6665 would permanently cap their Washington portion at 1.1 percent, or $360 million per year. Their cumulative tax bills on advertising revenue would be reduced from about $11 million per year to $5.6 million.
*The original version of this post incorrectly stated that any taxes national media companies owed to Washington state from before January 2012 would be entirely forgiven under SB 6665.
As House and Senate budget writers come together to pass a final 2016 supplemental budget, they must recognize that additional revenue is essential to investing in a strong economy that serves us all.
While the House budget smartly recommends new sources of revenue, it nevertheless balances its budget in part by drawing down reserves and taking other one-time actions. The Senate budget leaves reserves intact, but it does not include any new sources of revenue. Instead, Senate leaders patch together a nominally balanced budget through one-time gimmicks – including raiding other accounts and eliminating unused funds that will be needed in the future. Such one-time actions and gimmicks are not sustainable and will not strengthen our state economy in the long run.
Ultimately, the House budget bolsters investments in the kinds of public priorities that boost the economy – such as schools, public health, and community development – while the Senate's budget by and large weakens them. [See graph for more details.] And both budgets are still too focused on short-term needs.
click on graph for a larger version.
Leaders in the House take steps to strengthen Washington’s K-12 schools as well as its community colleges and universities by increasing investments by about $227 million.
The House budget includes:
- Funding to address the teacher retention crisis. Increasing pay among first-year teachers to an average of $40,000 annually from $35,000 would help Washington attract and retain high-quality teachers. Funds would also be allocated to address the faculty shortage at community colleges and public universities. Much of this investment would sensibly be paid for by eliminating six wasteful corporate tax breaks.
- A focus on addressing the opportunity gap. By expanding investments in the efforts to ensure that students of color receive equitable disciplinary treatment at school, the House takes a small but meaningful step to advance racial equity.
- Directing Supreme Court-imposed fines to schools. The House budget provides funds to pay the fines the State Supreme Court levied against the legislature for failing to develop a plan to fund schools as required by the McCleary decision. About $21 million is provided to K-12 education to account for these fines.
By contrast, Senate leaders take no steps to acknowledge the Supreme Court's fines or to invest in K-12 education. Overall, they propose to reduce public education spending by $26 million and redirect funds from elsewhere in the budget to fund charter schools.
The Senate budget includes:
- A reallocation of the unspent K-3 class-size reduction funds. The Senate “saves money” in its education budget by reallocating the $62 million in funds intended to help our overcrowded classrooms in kindergarten through third grade. This move partially unfunds multiple laws requiring the state to reduce class sizes, and it removes funding that will likely be needed by school districts in the coming months.
- Increased funding for universities. With the exception of The Evergreen State College, which would see a modest reduction, funding for public universities would be slightly increased.
- Reinstated funding for charter schools. Some $21 million in funding for public charter schools would be moved from elsewhere in the budget. This enables the Senate to fund charter schools while still addressing a recent State Supreme Court ruling requiring the legislature to change the way these schools are financed.
The House increases investments in programs that serve the physical and mental health of Washingtonians by $90 million.
The House budget includes:
- New investments in mental health. An additional $14.4 million in funding is provided for more beds at crisis centers around the state and other mental health services.
- More assistance for runaway youth. To assist homeless youth who have run away from home because of ongoing family problems, $2 million is provided.
Leaders in the Senate propose to reduce funding for investments in the health of Washington’s people by $26 million.
The Senate budget includes:
- Redirected investments in mental health. Although overall funding for mental health would be reduced in the Senate budget, new funding would be allocated for mental health hospitals and several other mental health services.
- The implementation of a fee-for-service model of health care for people who are elderly, blind, or disabled. The Senate assumes $26 million in savings can be achieved by transitioning health care funding for these populations to a fee-based model from the current managed-care model.
- The drawdown of public agency reserve funds. Some local mental health service organizations have accumulated reserve funds (that are separate from the state's rainy day fund), which could be drawn from in the event of an emergency. The Senate budget draws down these savings by $44 million to maintain or expand other investments.
Under the House budget proposal, overall funding for investments in the economic security of Washington’s kids and families would be increased by $36 million. But the budget does keep in place restrictions in access to a program that helps families struggling to make ends meet.
The House budget includes:
- Salary increases for early learning teachers. To fund previously negotiated salary increases for early learning professionals that serve families with lower incomes, an additional $12.7 million would be allocated.
- Maintained restrictions for access to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds. Because of harsh restrictions to the TANF program enacted during the recession, the use of TANF's crucial services has been lower than projected, and thousands of families have been unable to access these services. The House budget would keep those restrictions in place and reallocate $21 million in unspent funding.
The Senate budget proposal would reduce funding for investments in economic security by $57 million.
The Senate budget includes:
- Maintained restrictions in TANF funds. Like the House, the Senate would reallocate unspent TANF funds, but to a larger degree – $33 million for the remainder of this budget cycle.
- A replacement of ongoing unemployment funds with a one-time source of funding. About $17 million in general funds for unemployment services would be cut and replaced via a one-time sweep of funds from a separate account. Replacing an ongoing source of funds with a temporary one could jeopardize policymakers’ ability to maintain these critical services in the long run.
Community Development & Trust
Leaders in the House would increase investments in building stronger, safer communities by $318 million. They would do this in part by dipping into the state Budget Stabilization Account or “rainy day fund.”
The House budget includes:
- New investments to address youth homelessness. Additional funding will go toward a range of services for homeless youth – from helping them succeed in school to creating additional beds at shelters.
- Additional investments to address wildfires. To help address the costs associated with 2015’s unusually bad fire season, $190 million in funds would be allocated from the state rainy day fund.
Although it does address a few short-term needs, the Senate would overall reduce funding in community development by $174 million.
The Senate budget includes:
- A shift in funds to pay for the supervision of offenders. A little over $6 million in funds would be removed from other accounts to pay for higher costs within the Department of Corrections to supervise some offenders.
- Funding to address wildfires. The Senate budget would move $156 million from elsewhere in the budget to help the Department of Natural Resources pay for the costs associated with last summer’s wildfires.
Even in a supplemental budget year, legislators have the opportunity to propose a budget that takes the long view. Unfortunately, these budgets merely scrape by in the short-term, relying on fiscal gimmicks that put our state economy at risk.
To create a more sustainable budget, policymakers should at the very least increase revenue by eliminating wasteful corporate tax breaks, as the House suggests. They should also consider other new forms of revenue, like the capital gains tax. Without considering such revenue reforms, legislators are missing an opportunity to invest in the future progress of all Washingtonians.
The supplemental budget proposed by the Washington State Senate takes the wrong approach to meeting the needs of Washingtonians. By offering no new forms revenue and by cutting funding for important state programs, the Senate budget writers don’t offer meaningful solutions to strengthening our state economy.
The budget puts corporations’ needs over the needs of everyday Washingtonians. In particular, it keeps in place wasteful corporate tax breaks that the House wisely recommended cutting in its budget. Instead, the Senate balances its budget by cutting funds from government programs, such as toxic clean-up programs that improve the health of communities throughout the state. It also fails to increase access to high-quality early learning opportunities for kids, per the Early Start Act.
During a time when our Legislature continues to be fined $100,000 a day by the State Supreme Court for failing to take steps to fully fund K-12 education, the Senate’s budget also doesn’t offer any recommendations for investing in schools.
While it’s worth noting that the Senate budget sensibly refrains from tapping into the Rainy Day Fund to balance its budget, Senate budget writers would nevertheless be wise to implement the common-sense revenue proposals put forward by Gov. Inslee and by their colleagues in the House. Doing so would better set the Legislature up to meet its K-12 funding mandate and to preserve state programs that benefit us all.