Schmudget Blog

Senate Republican Budget Proposal Puts Washington’s Economic Future on Shaky Ground

Posted by Melinda Young-Flynn at Mar 21, 2017 03:20 PM |

Statement from Misha Werschkul, executive director of the Washington State Budget & Policy Center:

The two-year spending plan proposed by Republican leaders in the Washington State Senate would put the economic security of our state on shaky ground for future generations. This budget would fracture the foundation of our state economy with unsustainable fiscal gimmicks as well as deep cuts now – with even deeper cuts into the future – to investments that benefit all Washingtonians. And it ignores the real problem facing our state: an upside-down tax code that disproportionately and unsustainably relies on the people with the lowest incomes to pay the highest share of their incomes in state and local taxes – while special interests and the wealthy get tax breaks. 

It is the responsibility of policymakers to ensure the budget invests in the protection of our state’s current and future well-being – especially during this time when we face so many threats from the federal level. This proposal doesn’t do that. Instead, it would turn our state’s budget into a house of cards, precariously held together by fiscal gimmicks. For example, it would: 

Drain $700 million from our state’s budget stabilization account (or rainy day fund), which will be needed the next time we enter an economic downturn, in order to make a one-time contribution to a chronically underfunded pension fund. 

Mask deep cuts that legislators would need make in the future to public safety, environmental protection, and a host of other investments, by dedicating all future revenue growth to K-12 education and property tax reductions.

And if enacted, this plan would make devastating changes to some of our state’s most crucial investments. It would:

Eliminate or dramatically cut programs that help keep working families and individuals out of poverty, in stable housing, and with access to safe and reliable child care. 

Do away with the voter-approved initiatives to reduce class sizes and to provide teachers with pay increases to keep up with the rising cost of living. 

That’s not a prescription for economic growth and broad prosperity.

It doesn’t have to be this way. To truly invest in the foundations that make our communities thrive, lawmakers can turn our tax code right-side up and invest in schools and other priorities by closing wasteful tax breaks, including a huge break on capital gains enjoyed by the very wealthiest households in our state. Doing so would build a better future for our communities. Senate Republican leaders would be wise to rework this budget to ensure that it strengthens the economic foundations of our communities and advances the well-being of all Washingtonians.

Five Ways Trump’s Budget Proposal Would Harm Washington State

By Julie Watts, deputy director
The Trump administration’s federal budget proposal hurts the very people the administration purported to help and leaves our states on the hook to make up the difference. The budget calls for big increases in military spending and pays for it through deep cuts to programs that help strengthen the economic security of everyday Americans. These cuts are on top of those already being proposed to health care through the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.


President Trump has promised to be a champion of people left behind by the economy. However, his budget takes aim at the very programs that serve them. In fact, all of the cuts come from the Non-Defense Discretionary spending area of the federal budget. This part of the budget funds key priorities like job training, education, affordable housing, and basic supports for children, families, and the aging. It also includes funding for border security, veterans' benefits, and the FBI, but since Congress is unlikely to cut these areas, programs that help workers and families would be particularly hard hit. 

Trump’s budget proposal, entitled “America First: A Budget Blueprint for Making America Great Again,” would not, in fact, help the communities in our nation and in our state thrive. Here are five ways Trump’s budget proposals would hurt Washington state and its residents:

1. Shifting costs to our state government and making it harder to balance the state budget: Federal grants make up almost one third of the Washington state budget. (See chart below.) They pay for things like education, human services, the environment, and statewide emergency response. The budget proposal would cut federal grants to states, which would leave our state on the hook for $458.6 million per biennium to maintain these services. (That is not even taking into consideration the $2.5 billion our state would have to cover if the proposed repeal of the Affordable Care Act and cuts to Medicaid go through). 

Federal grants to WA pie chart_2017

2. Making it harder for people to make ends meet: President Trump’s proposed budget would eliminate the Low Income Energy Assistance Program, which helps people who don’t have enough money to pay their light and energy bills to keep the lights and heat/cooling on. This program – which largely serves people with low incomes and the elderly – would provide $113 million to the state in the 2017-2019 biennium. Trump’s budget would also eliminate the Weatherization Assistance Program, which provides roughly $8.6 million per biennium to the state to help people with lower incomes weatherize their homes to save on energy bills.

3. Making it harder for parents to care for their kids: Many working families rely on before- and after-school programs to not only provide educational and enrichment opportunities for their kids, but also to ensure that kids are well-cared for while they work. Trump’s budget proposal would eliminate the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program. This program would provide $36.1 million for before- and after-school programs in Washington state in the next biennium. Eliminating the program could mean nearly 18,000 state children would lose educational, recreational, and enrichment programs outside school hours.

4. Making it harder to get a living-wage job: Whether you are a young person just starting out or you’ve been laid off and are back in the market, job-seeking is a daunting task. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) provides support to help eligible job seekers get education, training, and support services to succeed in the job market. WIOA grants to Washington totaled $137.5 million between 2015 and 2016. The Trump budget proposes cutting WIOA grants to states by 35 percent, which would mean the state would either need to come up with an additional $48.1 million in funds to cover the federal losses or serve 59,000 fewer people with job search and training support in the next biennium. 

5. Making it harder to get affordable housing: Washington state is in the midst of a homelessness crisis. Homelessness increased 15 percent in 2015 and again by 7 percent in 2016. The Trump budget slates the HOME Investment Partnerships Program,  a federal grant program to states to build affordable housing, for elimination. This program provides Washington state with about $38.1 million per biennium to issue to developers to build affordable housing units. Washington also stands to lose funding for Housing Choice Vouchers. These vouchers are an important tool in combating homelessness and providing people with low incomes with assistance to get housing in the rental market. In 2015, more than 50,000 Washington families had a roof over their heads thanks to this important program. Trump proposes to fund the vouchers at $1.7 billion below the amount necessary to maintain the current number of vouchers nationwide. That could mean big cuts to the number of households getting rental assistance in Washington.

And this is barely scratching the surface in terms of the cuts that the Trump budget is proposing.

President Trump’s budget proposal may have a difficult time clearing Congress. However, it represents a stark vision of what it would look like if Congress chooses to pursue a budget along similar lines: dramatic increases in military spending paid for with deep cuts to services and programs that help states support families, individuals, and workers. And again, this whole budget proposal is in addition to the dramatic cuts Washington state could be facing with the potential loss of ACA and Medicaid. 


Intergenerational Poverty Bill Would Help Lift Children and their Parents Out of Poverty

Posted by Melinda Young-Flynn at Feb 01, 2017 09:50 AM |
By Julie Watts, deputy director

Children can reach their full potential when their whole family has economic security. That is the fundamental principle underlying intergenerational approaches to addressing child poverty.

This session, state policymakers have an opportunity to lift significant numbers of Washingtonians out of poverty by passing a bill that focuses on improving the well-being of children and their families. House Bill 1482/Senate Bill 5440 would create an intergenerational, results-focused, evidence-based effort to improve the well-being of future generations.

Click on graphic to see enlarged version.


Far too many children in Washington state are growing up in poverty and households that are financially struggling. They don’t have enough to eat, a consistent place to sleep, or access to a doctor when they are sick or dentist when they have a cavity. Research shows that children who grow up with this kind of economic hardship are at greater risk of experiencing levels of toxic stress so severe it can affect them throughout their lifetime. Such stress impacts their emotional development, their future academic achievement, and the chances they will raise their own children in economic hardship as well.

Intergenerational  approaches (also called two-generation approaches) to address poverty focus on supporting parents and children together – rather than supporting them in silos – to help them move out of poverty permanently. They coordinate support for families across five key areas: high-quality early childhood education; higher education and career pathways; asset building; health and well-being; and social capital.

HB 1482 and SB 5440 would:

  • Expand the scope of a state legislative-executive task force on WorkFirst (Washington’s temporary cash assistance program that helps families struggling to make ends meet get back on their feet) to include poverty reduction and to focus on the underlying causes of intergenerational poverty.
  • Establish a key goal of the task force to reduce the number of people living below 200 percent of the federal poverty line by 50 percent by 2025 in a way that eliminates disparities by race, ethnicity, sex, gender, zip code, immigration status, age, household type, disability status, and more.
  • Require the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) to develop a five- and 10-year plan to reduce poverty.
  • Require DSHS to gather and track relevant national, state, and local data related to poverty and track progress toward poverty reduction goals.

Children are more likely to thrive when their parents are thriving. These bills can help lay the foundation for dramatic poverty reduction in our state so all of Washington’s kids can reach their full potential.

In Every Corner of the State, Washingtonians Rely on the Affordable Care Act for their Health

Posted by Melinda Young-Flynn at Jan 20, 2017 02:30 PM |
By Misha Werschkul, executive director
Washington state has long been a leader in improving health coverage for people of all ages. The health of our residents is threatened by Congress’s proposal to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without a replacement. Nearly 800,000 Washingtonians stand to lose their health insurance coverage through the repeal of Medicaid expansion, the end of subsidies that help Washingtonians afford coverage through the health insurance exchanges, and the likely collapse of the individual health insurance market.

A repeal of the ACA would be devastating for people in cities and towns across Washington. People and families from all backgrounds would lose the opportunity to receive preventative care, to see a doctor when they’re sick, or to have access to life-saving medications and treatments. In addition, the ACA repeal would trigger a dramatic reduction in federal funding that currently pays for health care for Washingtonians and cause job losses in health care and other sectors.

Below is a breakdown of how people would be impacted by geography and by race and ethnicity. [1]


Because it is the most populated county in our state, King County is home to the largest number of those hurt by an ACA repeal. Over 200,000 people – or approximately a quarter of the Washingtonians who would lose coverage – live in King County. (See the map below for more information about how many people would lose coverage by county.)

Yet the loss of health coverage would be felt most significantly in rural and eastern Washington. In fact, more than 20 percent of adults of six rural counties (Grays Harbor, Jefferson, Okanogan, Pacific, Pend Oreille, and Yakima counties) currently receive health coverage through the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. [2] Further, many Washingtonians also receive subsidies to help them afford  health coverage through Washington Health Plan Finder, which is part of the Affordable Care Act. So ultimately, at least 40 percent of adults rely on the ACA in six counties in our state (Adams, Franklin, Grant, Okanagan, Pacific, and Yakima). 

The congressional districts with the largest percentage of residents hurt by the repeal are districts 4 and 5 in eastern Washington – which includes Spokane, Walla Walla, and the Tri-Cities. 

Click on graphic to see an enlarged version of the map.

ACA impact by county

Race and ethnicity: 

The majority – approximately 65 percent – of adults who would lose coverage are white. Repealing the Affordable Care Act would nevertheless disproportionately harm Black, Latino, and Asian Pacific Islander Washingtonians since approximately one in five Black, Latino, and Asian Pacific Islander adults in Washington would lose coverage, compared to approximately one in ten white adults. It is important to note that both prior to and with the Affordable Care Act, people of color are more likely to face barriers to getting health coverage due to a history of exclusionary policies, such as lower rates of employer-sponsored insurance among professions that traditionally employ more people of color. 

The Affordable Care Act helped reduce racial disparities in health insurance coverage and the ACA repeal would reverse this progress. (For more information about nationwide gaps in coverage by race and ethnicity, see this Kaiser Family Foundation policy brief. )

But the numbers only tell part of the story. Please tell your story about your own experience with the Affordable Care Act to ensure that consumer voices are at the center of our country’s health care debate.

1. Data provided by the Washington State Office of Financial Management and the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. 2. The definition of adult in this data is a person who is between 19 and 64 years old.

Hundreds of Thousands of Washingtonians Would Lose Health Coverage with Federal Affordable Care Act Repeal

Posted by Melinda Young-Flynn at Dec 09, 2016 06:21 PM |

Congressional leaders in Washington, D.C. plan to move quickly in January 2017 to repeal much of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) without enacting a replacement. Such a move would be devastating to the health and well-being of thousands of Washingtonians. It would set our state and its people on a path backward rather than forward. 

In fact, new analysis from the Urban Institute reveals the disastrous impact of a federal ACA repeal on Washington’s families, health care providers, and economy. Here are some key findings:  

  • 775,000 Washingtonians stand to lose their health insurance coverage if the ACA is repealed. Most of the coverage loss would occur among families with at least one worker and among people without college degrees.
  • The number of uninsured Washingtonians would more than double, from 508,000 today to 1,283,000 after a repeal. 
  • The number of uninsured would be even larger than the number uninsured prior to enactment of the ACA due to the likely collapse of the individual health insurance market with the repeal of the individual mandate and premium assistance programs.
  • Washington would lose $3.5 billion in federal funding for health care in 2019, and $42.8 billion between 2019 and 2028.

Washington state has been a leader in implementing the ACA, including establishing a new state health insurance marketplace, the Washington Health Plan Finder, and covering hundreds of thousands of people through Medicaid expansion. These efforts have helped so many Washingtonians have the opportunity to see a doctor or get medicine when they’re sick. Now, this federal proposal threatens to leave individuals in our state extremely vulnerable in terms of both health outcomes and financial security. 

The Washington State Budget & Policy Center is tracking potential federal policy changes and their impact on Washingtonians and on our efforts to build a stronger, more prosperous, and equitable state. Stay tuned for more analysis from us and our national partners on proposed federal changes. 

Additional Resources:


Voters Raise Wages for 730,000 Washingtonians; Federal Changes Could Threaten Washington’s Children and Families

Posted by Melinda Young-Flynn at Nov 10, 2016 07:15 PM |

In the November 8 election, voters in Washington state overwhelmingly approved a ballot initiative to help working families in our state and strengthen our state economy. The passage of Initiative 1433 means more than 730,000 Washingtonians will get a raise in the next four years. Minimum wage workers 18 and older will earn $11 an hour starting in 2017, $11.50 in 2018, $12 in 2019, and $13.50 in 2020. They will also receive paid sick leave beginning 2018. 

Washington was part of a larger movement nationwide to raise the minimum wage. We joined three other states – Colorado, Maine, and Arizona – in approving statewide minimum wage increases. (This, of course, is the result of a movement kicked off in our own state when citywide minimum wage increases were approved in SeaTac and Seattle in 2013 and 2014, respectively.) The voter initiatives in Arizona and Washington also included paid sick and safe days. In addition, voters in South Dakota rejected a referendum that would have lowered the statewide minimum wage by a dollar. And voters in Flagstaff, Arizona approved a phased-in $15 per hour minimum wage. 

Budget & Policy Center research on the projected impact of I-1433 was referenced in multiple op-eds, editorials, and endorsements and played a key role in shaping the statewide conversation about the economic benefits of raising the minimum wage. Our analysis estimates the initiative will infuse $2.5 billion more into local economies. It will also directly benefit more than 360,000 Washington kids who live in families where one or more parent makes less than $13.50 per hour. 

After Tuesday's national election, our work together becomes much harder, and also even more important and urgent. Proposed federal policy changes to the Affordable Care Act, health care and safety net programs, tax policy, environmental policy, and other areas could significantly impact the state budget and threaten the well-being of Washington children and families. 

At the Budget & Policy Center, we stand together against racism, sexism, Islamophobia, and anti-immigrant bias. We remain committed to advancing policies to expand opportunity for our state residents – to ensure we have great schools and to invest in programs that promote economic security, good jobs, and thriving communities.  

Our state legislative agenda, which we are developing with our many community partners, will be released prior to the 2017 session. We will also work with partners across the country and at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities to analyze proposed federal policy changes on Washingtonians and fight back against policy changes that would harm our economy, our communities, and our families.

In the meantime, the conversations at our Budget Matters conference next Wednesday, November 16, will focus on strengthening the movement to promote policies that advance racial equity, opportunity for all, and social and economic justice. It will be an opportunity for people who care about the future of Washington state to prepare for the next legislative session and strategize on how we can continue to build progressive wins in a new federal landscape. The registration deadline is tomorrow, Friday, November 11. We hope to see you there.

This version of the blog post has been modified slightly from the original version to better emphasize the Budget & Policy's role in responding to the national election.

Investments in Food Assistance Improve Child Well-Being

Posted by Melinda Young-Flynn at Oct 30, 2016 09:55 PM |
By Julie Watts, deputy director

Washington’s children have a chance at a better future thanks to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). New research from a Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) report shows that continued investments into this federally funded program set kids up to see better health and education outcomes throughout their lives. It also wards against the effects of hunger and poverty on children and families. 

Indeed, SNAP helps prevent the negative effects that families can sometimes face when they’re struggling to make ends meet – such as abuse or neglect, mental health issues with parents, and related events that can take a toll on children’s well-being into adulthood. 

The CBPP report, SNAP Works for America’s Children, finds that SNAP helps form a strong foundation of health and well-being for children with low incomes by lifting millions of families out of poverty and helping families have food on the table. It also, among other things, helps kids perform better academically and have fewer missed days of school

With an investment of only $1.35 per person, per meal, SNAP helps lift children out of deep poverty better than any other government program for people who are trying to make ends meet. (Deep poverty is defined as below 50 percent of the federal poverty line, or an income of $10,080 for a family of three.) 

In Washington state, there has been a modest improvement in the hunger rate over the past year. SNAP is helping to give over 423,000 Washington children the foundation they need to succeed.  

Nevertheless, the data also show that the need for effective food assistance programs remains significant. Despite the effectiveness of SNAP and statewide networks of community-based food support services, hunger and food insecurity (skipping meals because of a lack of resources to buy food) are still higher than they were before the recession. A recent report by Washington’s Anti-Hunger & Nutrition Coalition highlights U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) data showing that while the food insecurity rate decreased to 13.4 percent from 15.4 percent over the past year in Washington, this is still higher than the 11.1 percent pre-recession rate.

There are also limitations to the information collected by the USDA, which may mean that hunger and food insecurity may be even higher than what the data show. USDA survey data does not include families who are homeless. Given that there has been a dramatic rise in homelessness in Washington state over the last year, many people who are hungry or food insecure are likely not being counted.

Further, as a result of continued inequities in federal and state policies, children of color are more likely to experience hunger. The national food insecurity rate for Black households (21.5 percent) and Hispanic households (19.1 percent) is nearly twice that for White/non-Hispanic households. (Unfortunately, no data is reported for Native American or Asian Pacific Islander households, pointing to the need for better data collection methods at both the state and federal levels.)

In order to ensure SNAP is actually serving the kids who need it most, any efforts policymakers make to reform SNAP should build on the program’s effectiveness. In Washington, policymakers recently restored SNAP benefits for legally residing immigrants and protected nearly 200,000 households from cuts in benefits that were proposed at the national level. These are excellent examples of how to strengthen an essential program that helps kids in our state.

Such protections and enhancements to SNAP are a smart policy decision. They will help more Washington children have a better foundation for success throughout their lives.

Document Actions

We're Seeking Board Members

Want to engage more deeply with the work of the Budget & Policy Center? Then consider joining our Board of Directors! We are looking for three new board members this year. Click here for details.

Watch Our Budget Beat Webinars

We host regular Budget Beat webinars throughout legislative session to bring you updates and breaking news from Olympia and timely policy analysis. Visit our YouTube channel to watch our previous Budget Beats. 

Testimonies in Olympia

To advance our legislative priorities, the Budget & Policy Center team is in the state capitol throughout session testifying on a wide range of bills. Watch our recent testimonies on TVW:
Misha TVW

View Our School Funding Plenary 

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.