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More Evidence Suggests Tackling Child Poverty Best Thing to Do for Our Kids

Posted by Elena Hernandez at Jul 31, 2014 04:40 PM |
Filed under: Poverty, Economic Security

Elena Hernandez - A recurring theme is emerging – high poverty rates and declining family economic security are hurting Washington state’s kids and our economy. A new report from Child Trends is the third report in one month highlighting the importance of tackling systemic child poverty (see our post on the 2014 KIDS COUNT Data Book and the 2014 Opportunity Scorecard).

Today’s report provides new state-level data illustrating the prevalence of eight adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) – particularly stressful events that are strongly linked to negative outcomes later in life, such as obesity, alcoholism, and depression.

Economic hardship is the most common adverse childhood experience in Washington state, a consistent finding across all states. One out of every 4 kids have gone through repeated periods where their family found it difficult to cover costs of even the most basic needs like food or housing.  

When a quarter of our kids experience economic hardship during their childhood we cannot achieve our full potential as a state.  Developing a strategic and targeted approach to reducing poverty and removing barriers to opportunity should be a top state priority. 

Other highlights from the Washington state–specific data include:

  • Over one-third (36 percent) of children experienced one or two adverse childhood experiences at some point from birth to age 17. The more ACEs a child experiences, the more likely they are to experience negative outcomes in the future.
  • Nine percent of kids are either the victim of violence or witness violence in their neighborhoods.
  • One out of every five children (21 percent) lives with a parent or guardian that is either separated or has gone through a divorce.
  • Twelve percent of children live in a home where someone struggles with alcohol or drugs or suffers from mental illness.  In fact the prevalence of mental health related ACEs in Washington state is among the highest in the country.



Paul Ryan’s Anti-Poverty Plan Would Have Devastating Impact in Washington State

Elena Hernandez & Lori Pfingst -House Budget Chair Paul Ryan’s new anti-poverty proposal doesn’t reflect reality and would have damaging effects for Washington state’s low income children and families.  On Tuesday, we highlighted data from the 2014 KIDS COUNT Databook demonstrating that kids in our state continue to see declines in economic well-being, making this new proposal all the more concerning.

Under Chairman Ryan’s proposal, all federal safety net programs (including rental assistance, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)) would be rolled into a single block grant provided to the states, misleadingly called an “Opportunity Grant.”  This fixed funding structure would prevent safety net programs from being able to respond to increases in need.

History has shown that block grants, which provide a fixed amount of funding, regardless of changes in need, stifle the ability of safety net programs to achieve their main goal of mitigating the impact of economic hardship on children and families.

The difference in how TANF, funded via a federal block grant, and SNAP, an entitlement program, responded during the recession is illustrative of the problem with Chairman Ryan’s proposal.  The fixed funding structure of TANF was unable to respond to rising need in Washington state during the recession.  The figure below illustrates that while poverty rates for children and families continued to climb following the recession, the proportion of low income and poor children receiving TANF declined.  In 2008, for every 100 kids living at or below the poverty line, TANF provided support to nearly 40. By 2012, that number declined to just 28 out of 100 kids.  In contrast, SNAP, with its more flexible funding structure, was able to react to increased demand during the recession (see figure below).  In 2008, SNAP provided support for roughly 45 out of every 100 low income Washingtonians.  The proportion increased to about 67 out of every 100 low income Washingtonians by 2012.


The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities warns that Chairman Ryan’s proposal to combine all of the safety net programs into one block grant would pit these important programs against one another, leading to cuts for basic assistance programs that have historically performed well, like SNAP (read more here).  According to CBPP, restructuring funding into block grants will lead to reduced federal funding over time as it becomes increasingly challenging to identify need within these programs.   Our analysis of the 2014 KIDS COUNT Databook illustrated that kids and families in Washington continue to see declines in economic well-being.  Paul Ryan’s plan would only serve to intensify these issues.  In order to put our economy back on track, we need policies that reflect reality and tackle systemic poverty by ensuring meaningful pathways to opportunity. 


Lack of Economic Progress & Opportunity Gap Holding Washington’s Kids Back

Posted by Lori Pfingst at Jul 22, 2014 04:50 PM |

Elena Hernandez & Lori Pfingst - New data released today show that declining economic security and the opportunity gap for kids of color remain the most significant barriers to unleashing the full potential of Washington state’s children and economy. 

The 2014 KIDS COUNT Data Book provides a national snapshot of child well-being over the past 25 years, as well as more recent trends for the 50 states.  Both nationally and in Washington state historically high poverty, unemployment, and housing costs, coupled with racial and ethnic disparities in child well-being are our biggest threats to progress. The data show:

  • The total child poverty rate increased from 15 percent to 19 percent between 2005 and 2012. Poverty rates are as high as 35 percent among Black, Latino, and American Indian children, and the number of Asian and Pacific Islander children living in poverty has almost doubled.
  • Nearly one-third (31 percent) of children have parents that lack secure employment. Among Black children the rate is even higher – four of every ten children (40 percent) live with parents that do not have regular, full-time employment.
  • Four of every 10 children (39 percent) live in families with high housing costs. Latino children are most likely to be impacted, with nearly half (49 percent) living in households where 30 percent or more of household pretax income is spent on housing.


Education and health indicators are showing overall improvement, but disparities for kids of color remain.  For example:

  • The total share of students in Washington state not graduating on time decreased from 27 percent to 21 percent between 2005 and 2012.  Latino students saw a decrease from 37 percent to 21 percent over the same time period, but the rates for most students of color have worsened.  The largest increase was among American Indian students, whose rates increased from 49 percent in 2005 to 59 percent. 
  • Compared to 2005, a higher percent of students today are meeting fourth grade reading standards and eighth grade math standards on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exam. A higher percent of students from most major racial and ethnic backgrounds are meeting proficiency in reading and math today compared to 2005. (Note: Data not available for American Indian/Alaska Native on this indicator)
  • The percent of uninsured children has declined to from 8 percent to 6 percent since 2008. Significantly more Black and Latino kids have gained coverage, while American Indian kids go uninsured at a rate three times higher than the state average (18 percent).
  • The teen birth rate has declined dramatically, from 31 to 23 (per 1,000) between 2005 and 2012. The largest declines have occurred among teens of color.

The well-being of our children is the most significant predictor of our long-term economic and social future.  The 2014 KIDS COUNT data suggest that, while overall gains in education and health are welcome news and show progress is possible, declining economic security and racial and ethnic disparities are holding our kids and economy back.  A future where progress is made for some and not others is unacceptable.

Given the overwhelming evidence documenting the strong relationship between economic security and all other areas of well-being, progress in these areas can be accelerated if we meaningfully tackle systemic poverty and advance racial equity. 

The full profile for Washington state is below and can be accessed here.  For more indicators of child well-being in Washington state, visit the KIDS COUNT Data Center.


Now Accepting Applications for the 2014-2015 Narver Fellowship

Posted by Tara Lee at Jul 01, 2014 11:00 AM |
Filed under: BPC News

We are now accepting applications for the 2014 - 2015 Betty Jane Narver Fellowship. The fellowship is open to any currently enrolled graduate student in a college or university, and recent graduates with a master's degree or Ph.D.

Qualified applicants should have excellent written and oral communications skills, a commitment to accuracy and attention to detail, and a demonstrated interest in fiscal policy. To achieve our goal of training and supporting new voices in the policy arena, we’re especially interested in candidates from diverse backgrounds.

The fellow will receive a monthly stipend and be responsible for less than 20 hours a week.

This position is not eligible for benefits. Reimbursable travel may be required to specific policy-related trainings chosen by the Budget & Policy Center.

The fellowship will generally run from November 2014 through April 2015 (this is flexible).

For more information about the Narver Fellowship, including reflections from our 2013 -2014 fellow, click here.

Apply for the 2014 - 2015 Betty Jane Narver Fellowship.

The deadline to apply is Thursday, July 31st.


 Narver Fellows

Previous Narver Fellows at Budget Matters 2013, our annual policy conference. From left to right: Jillian Pennyman, 2013-2014; Elena Hernandez, 2012-2013; and Karinda Harris, 2010 -2011.

State Tax Resources to Fall Critically Short of Current Needs

Posted by Andy Nicholas at Jun 17, 2014 04:30 PM |
Filed under: State Budget, State Revenue

By Andy Nicholas and Kim Justice -- As policymakers grapple with a State Supreme Court mandate to invest billions of additional funds in Washington state schools, today’s lackluster forecast of state tax collections makes it abundantly clear that policymakers must get serious about reforming the state’s flawed, 1930s era revenue system.  We cannot provide a prosperous future for our children and grandchildren unless we change our tax system.

Washington state tax collections are now estimated to grow by 2.8 percent in the budget year that begins in July, and by 4.6 percent and 4.5 percent in each of the two following years, according to updated projections released this afternoon by the state Economic and Revenue Forecast Council (ERFC).

In the next two-year budget cycle, resources will fall more than  $2.5 billion short of projected spending on health and human services, environmental protections, higher education, early learning, and other key investments, as well as  the next installment required to improve basic education under the State Supreme Court’s McCleary decision (see graph). (1)


The updated projections should come as a sobering reality check for some policymakers who have relied on unrealistic revenue growth expectations to dodge tough decisions about Washington state’s future. Earlier this year, these lawmakers put forward a damaging proposal to devote two-thirds of all future revenue growth to education. The proposal dubiously assumed that future revenue growth would be sufficient to fund court-mandated school improvements, which, by 2018 will cost at least $4.5 billion per budget cycle plus $1 billion for teacher compensation. 

In reality, revenue growth won’t come anywhere close to meeting the needs of our state in the coming years. And we can’t afford to undermine the goals of the McCleary ruling by cutting deep into health care, child care, public safety, and other services that help kids succeed in the classroom. Today’s projections show that the widening gap between available tax resources and needed investments that promote a strong state economy can only be addressed by bolstering state resources. 

(1) Projected additional spending needs estimated by the Office of Financial Management in communication sent via DSHS, June 3, 2014.


Statement on McCleary Order: New Revenue Needed For Better Outcomes for Kids

Posted by Ben Secord at Jun 13, 2014 09:30 PM |

Executive Director Remy Trupin issued the following statement the State Supreme Court's recent order:

"Yesterday, the State Supreme Court found that the Legislature has failed, once again, to make meaningful progress toward fully funding education by 2018, as per the “McCleary” ruling.  The inability of the Legislature to adequately act in the wake of McCleary is actually a symptom of a larger problem: we cannot make meaningful progress in our state – on education or anything else – until we raise new revenue.   

Providing a quality basic education is the paramount duty of our state, but children need more than just K-12 to thrive.  Early learning, higher education, environmental protections, health and human services, and transportation are all critical to a strong foundation of opportunity for all our residents and a strong economy.  

Some have suggested that we must fund education first without new revenue but the math simply doesn't pencil out. Current revenues are projected to fall short of the amount needed to maintain existing levels of education and other public investments, let alone the $4.5 billion additional needed to meet McCleary and $1 billion more per year for teacher compensation.

After years of deep cuts that have diminished opportunities for kids and hurt our economy, it’s time for policymakers to take a hard look at fixing Washington’s state’s outdated and inequitable tax system. Closing wasteful tax breaks and taxing windfall profits from the sale of corporate stocks and other high-end financial assets, as 42 other states do, would be a good start.

It’s time to face reality.  The solutions are there, we just need the political will. Hopefully the Court’s actions will spur the Legislature to act. Kids can’t afford any more delays.


Flawed Economic Model Hurts Washington State

Posted by Andy Nicholas at Jun 09, 2014 11:30 AM |

An economic model frequently cited by some Washington state lawmakers to justify their opposition to tax increases distorts the impact of tax proposals on state economies, according to a new study from the non-partisan Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP).

The report makes it clear the Beacon Hill Institute’s State Tax Analysis Modeling Program (STAMP), is rigged to exaggerate the benefits of tax cuts for large corporations and wealthy households and to minimize the benefits of state spending on universities and community colleges, infrastructure, public safety, and other investments that help build a strong state economy.

In Washington state, lawmakers have a mandate from the State Supreme Court to generate at least $4.5 billion in new tax resources per two-year budget cycle to improve basic education. To comply with the Court’s ruling, Governor Inslee and leaders in the House have put forward sensible proposals to close a number of wasteful tax breaks and extend a temporary business tax increase.

However, these proposals were thwarted by policymakers who would rather use the Court’s mandate as an excuse to eliminate other investments that ensure kids’ well-being and help them learn, such as health care and child care. The same policymakers cited STAMP-based projections that the proposed tax measures would do implausibly large damage to the state economy.

ITEP’s study conclusively shows that STAMP projections, and the “junk economics” behind them, are being used to short-change future generations of Washingtonians and should be abandoned.  

According to the study, STAMP’s fundamental flaws include:

  • An unrealistic economic foundation: The model state economies that STAMP uses to measure whether a particular policy is good or bad for employers, families, and workers bear little resemblance to reality. The model dubiously assumes that state economies are perfectly competitive at all times, meaning they never go through recessions, everyone who wants a job always has one, and corporations and consumers have equal amounts of knowledge about the safety and quality of all products on the market.
  • Public investments are undervalued: Governments play a crucial role in state economies, employing workers and purchasing goods and services from businesses, which pumps significant amounts of money into the marketplace. States also maintain investments like education, healthcare, roads and other infrastructure that are vital to long-term economic growth. However, STAMP mischaracterizes government, treating it as an institution that merely redistributes tax dollars from one group to another. This enormous oversimplification greatly diminishes the economic value of state government in STAMP projections.
  • Impact of taxes is overstated: By contrast, STAMP assumes even small tax changes are exceptionally bad for state economies. Workers, businesses, and consumers are assumed to be hypersensitive to state taxes, fleeing en masse at the first hint of a tax increase. As ITEP points out, a sizable amount of research shows individuals and businesses to be much less sensitive to taxes than STAMP suggests.
  • Results that are out of line with history and mainstream economics: Not surprisingly, STAMP’s results frequently contradict predictions made be mainstream economists and models that use sensible assumptions. In Kansas, STAMP recently predicted a sizable income tax cut would create up to 42,000 new jobs in the state. However, since the cut was enacted in 2012, Kansas has trailed the nation in jobs, incomes, and the growth of registered businesses.

For more information read the entire report.


Document Actions

Legislative Testimony

Senior Budget Analyst Kim Justice recently testified before Senate Ways and Means against a bill that would fund education at the expense of other budget investments. Watch it here. 

Kim 5881

Inside Olympia

Executive Director Remy Trupin appeared on TVW's "Inside Olympia" to discuss the budget, revenue options, and the impact of the McCleary decision going forward. The whole interview can be found here. 

Remy TVW -March 14

Budget Matters 2013

More than 300 people -- advocates, students, lawmakers, and policy experts joined us for our second annual policy conference. We heard from Heather McGhee, Jared Bernstein, and Governor Inslee.

Click here for video clips, photos, and PowerPoint presentations from the break-out sessions.

Our new video has highlights from the day. 

Heather McGhee

Save the date for this year's conference: Friday, December 12th, 2014 at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle.