Schmudget Blog


President’s Budget Would Harm Washingtonians, Leave State on the Hook for Massive Costs

Posted by Julie Watts at May 23, 2017 07:05 PM |
Statement by Executive Director Misha Werschkul:
 
The federal budget proposal released by President Trump would give massive tax cuts to the rich by cutting important programs that help lift people out of poverty and help people struggling to make ends meet. On the chopping block are critical services like Medicaid, food assistance, and basic support for people with disabilities. This “Robin Hood in reverse” proposal would hurt the wellbeing of our communities while lining the pockets of the wealthy and special interests. It should be rejected by Congress.
  
Far too many American families are just one accident or personal catastrophe away from financial collapse. The federal government needs to make sure that when people hit hard times they do not go without the basics. However, the president’s budget would cut $2.5 trillion from poverty-reduction programs in the United States over the next decade. That funding would help pay for huge tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations.


In Washington state, the proposed federal budget proposal would leave lawmakers on the hook for finding billions of dollars in additional funding over the next decade to make up for cuts in federal programs for states. For example, it would:

  • Cut Medicaid funding by 20 percent over 10 years, which would cost the state approximately $5 billion in federal funds per biennium by 2027.
  • Cut the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by 25 percent over 10 years, costing the state up to $1 billion per biennium by 2017.
  • Cut another $1.9 billion in other federal funds to the state over 10 years that provide basic supports to low-income families, prevent homelessness, and help people meet basic needs and train for better jobs.

We all share in the responsibility to ensure that everyone in our communities has food on the table, a roof over their heads, and basic supports. Programs like Medicaid and SNAP are effective at helping provide people with the foundations they need to move out of poverty. They also bolster local economies. 

If President Trump truly wants to help the American people and strengthen the economy, his budget should invest in services that actually help people find work, get education and essential job training, and have access to mental health services. He shouldn’t be focusing on making the rich richer at the expense of the rest of us.

Greenstein quote Trump budget

For more analysis on the federal implications of Trump’s proposed budget, see this statement from the director of the Center on the Budget and Policy Priorities: “Greenstein: Trump Budget Proposes Path to a New Gilded Age.”

 

 

Important Gains Have Been Made for a Better Future for Our State, but More Needs to Be Done

Washington’s elected leaders have an opportunity to ensure that all our residents have strong communities and the chance for a bright future. During the 2017 regular legislative session, state policymakers did pass some important bills – some of which are priorities for the Budget & Policy Center – to advance the wellbeing of Washingtonians. They include expanding access to early learning, enhancing educational opportunities for working parents, and supporting policies that would help reduce disparities in K-12 education. Yet they also left some very important policy decisions on the table to be worked out in the final budget.

The following highlights of key victories from the legislative session are great examples of what can be done to advance progress for working families for our state. As state policymakers move into a special session to negotiate the budget, they should build on these efforts to ensure the final budget secures a better future for all our residents.

Giving Washington’s Kids a Better, More Equitable Start


Washington state could be on track to expand the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), a key program for ensuring Washington kids have a solid foundation for early learning and care. Although the expansion is not a done deal, both the House and Senate budget proposals included plans to increase the number of 3 and 4 year olds in the program. However, only the House proposal included enough slots to put the state on track to meet its goal of covering the entire population of eligible kids who are not currently being served. If the final budget includes the funding, this would represent a significant step toward making sure all kids in Washington can get a great start in life. A recent research brief by KIDS COUNT in Washington – a collaboration between the Budget & Policy Center and the Children’s Alliance – found that expanding ECEAP could reduce disparities by race in K-12 readiness for kids across the state. The final budget must fund this expansion, and it must also include funding for ECEAP child care centers to build out their classrooms and facilities to accommodate more kids.

Policymakers also took another important step to advance racial equity for kids in schools by passing House Bill 1445, the Dual Language Learning Bill. Research has shown that one of the best ways to increase student achievement for both English-speaking kids and kids who are learning English as a second or third language is through dual language programs, which are programs that offer instruction to kids in two languages. Policymakers on both sides of the aisle took the important step to pass the bill to expand the program, but House and Senate budget proposals would have funded the program at different levels. Lawmakers should follow the urging of OneAmerica, the group that developed the legislation, and invest at least $4.5 million in funding for the program.

These investments are important steps forward for kids in our state. The final budget should also make sure that Washington’s kids and families have access to high-quality, affordable child care. The House has wisely proposed to do this by increasing pay for state-funded child care workers and increasing reimbursement rates for child care centers in the Working Connections Child Care program, a program that helps parents with low incomes pay for child care so they can go to work or train for a job.

The Budget & Policy Center is helping to shape the conversation on reducing disparities in education. For more details on how an ECEAP expansion and dual language learning can reduce disparities, check out our recent Budget Beat webinar, featuring the director of education and integration policy at OneAmerica. 

Providing More Opportunities for Working Families to Get Ahead


Everyone benefits when hardworking families have opportunities to get better-paying jobs and provide for their families. Two important bipartisan bills advanced this session that would create greater opportunities for working families. Policymakers in both parties passed House Bill 1566/Senate Bill 5347 which will allow parents on WorkFirst – Washington’s assistance and job training program for families striving to move out of poverty – to pursue 24 months of post-secondary education and training, rather than the current limit of 12 months. Research has found that people who get at least 54 credit hours of post-secondary education are more likely to be stably employed and earn more money over the long term.

Both Republicans and Democrats also worked to advance House Bill 1482/Senate Bill 5440 to prevent intergenerational poverty – a key Budget & Policy Center legislative priority  – which would create a new goal for the state to reduce the number of people living in poverty by half by 2025 through an intergenerational approach. Both the House and Senate budgets included funding for the bill in their budget proposals and the House bill passed with support from both parties. Now policymakers should include the bill in the final budget.

Our team is on the ground in Olympia! View our testimony on access to post-secondary education for families on WorkFirst before the House Early Learning and Human Services Committee. You can also watch our testimony addressing intergenerational poverty.

Removing Barriers for People to Re-enter their Communities:


Policymakers took important steps to provide educational opportunities for people who are incarcerated by passing Senate Bill 5069, the College in Prisons bill, which would allow people in prison in Washington to get an associate’s degree while serving their sentence. Research indicates that getting a post-secondary degree can reduce the likelihood that a person will be re-incarcerated by half. This is a huge step forward to ensure that people leaving prison have access to meaningful opportunities for a better life.

However, it is important to note that there were two significant missed opportunities with important re-entry bills that did not advance this session. The Fair Chance Act, House Bill 1298/Senate Bill 5312, would have prevented employers from discriminating against people with convictions on job applications. Policymakers also failed to pass House Bill 1783, which would reform the state’s legal financial obligations (LFO) policy. LFOs are fines and fees a person may need to pay connected with their conviction. While in prison – when a person is unable to work to earn an income – interest on unpaid fees can accumulate at an interest rate of 12 percent. The LFO reform bill would have improved this system to make it easier for people to pay of this debt and fulfill their sentence. Moving forward, lawmakers must take steps to remove the systemic barriers that exist for Washingtonians who are trying to re-enter and contribute to their communities.

We are highlighting important conversations at civic events! Read more about the need for LFO reform in this slideshow from a panel at our Budget Matters 2016 Policy Conference.


As the legislature moves into special session to write the budget, lawmakers must make sure the final budget secures a future for Washington that we all want: great schools, strong families, healthy communities. So far, the House budget proposal is a step in that direction that would secure the revenue necessary to make important investments in our communities. The Senate budget proposal, by contrast, would harm children, families and people with disabilities in Washington. Securing a strong future for our state will require leadership from both parties and the willingness to make the right investments on behalf of Washington residents. Now it is time to get to work on that important task.

Policymakers Have Opportunities to Advance Family Well-Being this Session

Posted by Julie Watts at Feb 15, 2017 12:10 PM |

Intergenerational approaches to addressing poverty are grounded in the principle that children thrive when their parents have the ability to meet their basic needs and secure their economic future. This legislative session, policymakers have several opportunities to pass legislation that would help ensure that Washington families across generations can reach their full potential and thrive.

As we have previously writtenHouse Bill 1484 and Senate Bill 5440 would lay the foundation and establish a framework to reduce the number of people living below 200 percent of the federal poverty line ($32,040 a year for a family of two) by half by 2025. 

Policymakers can also take steps this session to strengthen public benefit programs to have an immediate impact on child and family well-being. For example, they should ensure that state agencies and community organizations have the data and information they need to create effective poverty-reduction strategies. Current data sources don’t tell us enough about who is going hungry and missing meals due to a lack of financial resources. That is why policymakers and anti-hunger advocates have introduced Senate Bill 5485 and House Bill 2014 to allow the state to get more-detailed hunger data by region, race, and ethnicity to better target resources throughout the state. 

To see a fact sheet on why our state needs better data on hunger, click on the graphic below. 

Food insecurity graphic


Further, policymakers should also support these five intergenerational poverty-reduction priorities this session to build a better foundation for the future of our state:

  • Early Childhood Education: In order to thrive, all young children must have access to high-quality early learning. Policymakers must make sure more kids can enroll in the Early Childhood Education Assistance Program (ECEAP) and make sure the ECEAP child care centers have the resources to provide preschool education, and health and nutrition services. They should also improve both quality and access to affordable child care through Working Connections Child Care by eliminating potential waitlists, increasing the wages of child care workers, and ensuring providers have the resources they need to provide great care.
  • Post-Secondary and Employment Pathways: Education is a key pathway out of poverty. However, parents who participate in WorkFirst (a temporary assistance program to help families in poverty get on their feet) are not allowed to pursue more than 12 months of post-secondary education and training. A recent state study found that WorkFirst parents who manage against the odds to complete at least 54 credits (which takes at least 24 months) earned $6,252 more annually two years later and spent fewer total months on public assistance than parents who don’t go to community college. Senate Bill 5347 and House Bill1566 would allow WorkFirst parents to pursue 24 months of post-secondary vocational education and training.
  • Economic Assets:  We all need to have some savings to weather tough economic times, like the loss of a job or an illness. Unfortunately, some public assistance programs force people to spend down their savings or sell their car in order to qualify. As a result, people who are financially struggling need to dig themselves into a deeper economic hole before getting help. Two bills this session, Senate Bill 5609 and House Bill 1831 would raise or eliminate entirely asset caps in public assistance programs. Both bills would not only help people be more financially resilient, but would also make the programs more beneficial and cost-effective.

To see a fact sheet on the benefits of eliminating asset caps, click on the graphic below. 

Asset building image
  • Health & Well-Being: Research shows that children who grow up in economic hardship are at greater risk of experiencing toxic stress. In fact, as many as one in five low-income children and youth between ages 6 and 17 have some form of behavioral or mental health disorder. Rates are even higher for children who live in poverty and for those who become involved in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems. Intergenerational approaches to poverty place an emphases on reducing toxic stress through improved mental health services. House Bill 1713 and Senate Bill 5763 would require the state to better coordinate mental health resources and treatment for Medicaid-eligible children in Washington, require depression screenings for youth, and maintain a network of mental health providers.
  • Social Capital: Research has shown that there is an inter-relationship between social capital (relationships that help people earn more money and build influence in their community) and post-secondary education. Having social capital helps you get a better education and vice versa. Social capital and post-secondary education help people who’ve been incarcerated have a better transition home upon release, and they also them better contribute to their communities. Senate Bill 5069 and House Bill 1129 would allow people to pursue an associate’s degree while incarcerated, ensuring they have a chance at a better life when they are released and able to strengthen the well-being of their families and communities.


Policymakers on both sides of the political aisle have demonstrated their interest in and support for taking intergenerational approach to reducing poverty. The bipartisan support of many of these bills is a great sign that lawmakers want to support common goals to strengthen the well-being of all Washingtonians. 

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Roxana_BMC_plenary_2016View the Budget Matters 2016 conference plenary, "What's at Stake in the 2017-2019 Budget: Funding McCleary and Beyond." Moderated by Ann Dornfeld of KUOW, the plenary features Nathan Gibbs-Bowling, the 2016 Washington State Teacher of the Year; Lew Moore of the Washington Research Council; Roxana Norouzi of OneAmerica; and Sen. Christine Rolfes. The plenary starts after an intro by Executive Director Misha Werschkul and an intro video by Gov. Inslee.