Schmudget Blog

Education and Opportunity in the Senate Budget

Posted by remyt at Mar 30, 2009 12:40 PM |
Filed under: State Budget

Every child, teenager, and adult deserves access to a high quality education that opens doors to new opportunities and prosperity. In recent years the state has made significant investments in ensuring an equitable education system in our state. These investments can be seen in early childhood education, elementary and high schools, and in our institutions of higher learning.

In the area of Education and Opportunity, the Senate budget:

Early learning

  • State pre-school program slots (Early Childhood and Assistance Program) are reduced by 2 percent where programs are co-located with Head Start, potentially achieving a no-net reduction in pre-school slots statewide by taking advantage of new federal Head Start funding.
  • Other initiatives that improve the quality of care are eliminated including referral for child care, a wage ladder for child care workers, and supports for families, parents and caregivers.


K-12 education

  • A 93 percent cut to the voter-approved program that funds school district class size reduction, extended learning, early learning, and professional development.
  • A 75 percent cut in the funds that are used to help equalize school funding across wealthier and poorer districts.
  • A reduction in instructional staff for students in grades k-4
  • A suspension in voter-approved cost of living adjustment for education professionals.


Higher education and workforce development

  • Community and technical colleges see a 9% reduction in funding which would require tuition increases of 10% without other revenue
  • Public universities see a 19% reduction in funding which would require tuition increases of 14% without other revenue

Senate Budget Proposes Devastating Cuts to Basic Health

Posted by jeffc at Mar 30, 2009 11:45 AM |
Filed under: State Budget

Basic Health is a core component of the state's commitment to ensuring affordable access to health insurance for all Washingtonians. It is more important than ever in this economy.

The Senate budget proposes reducing the number of people receiving health insurance through Basic Health from 100,000 to 60,000 (see graph).


Often, cuts in Basic Health are reached by closing enrollment; when people leave the program, the state does not open that slot for new applicants. By doing so, the state restricts the availability of public health insurance, but does not immediately kick people off the program.

Contrary to some claims, it is unlikely that limiting new enrollments and other measures will be enough to cut enrollment to 60,000. The Senate budget documents acknowledge this by giving the Health Care Authority the ability to "disenroll" members with incomes as low as $18,310 (for a family of three).

Senate Budget Impairs Economic Security

Posted by remyt at Mar 30, 2009 01:50 PM |
Filed under: Economic Security

The state is facing a deep recession and state programs that provide economic security are more important than ever.

In the area of Economic Security, the Senate budget proposal:

  • Creates new barriers for families that need assistance in moving into the labor market
  • Significantly reduces cash assistance to adults with disabilities that are unable to work

One of the key resources for Washingtonians in poverty is the WorkFirst program. This program is intended to provide cash assistance to families while helping them find and maintain employment. However, the obstacles to finding employment are significant in the current economic climate.

The Senate and the Governor both propose a $68 million cut to the WorkFirst program. The Governor reduces the number of families served, including punitive measures that terminate benefits. The measures the Senate is proposing to reduce funding for WorkFirst are not clear, but both proposals do not respond to the increased need for assistance and the increased difficulty of moving into the labor market. In addition, it is unclear whether this policy change will jeopardize additional federal funds that are assumed elsewhere in the budget.

General Assistance financial benefits for adults who are unable to work because of disability were eliminated in the Governor’s proposal. The Senate has a 15 percent smaller cut, and anticipates 6,000 clients will not be able to receive assistance by the end of the biennium.

As the Budget & Policy Center digs further into the Senate budget proposal we will publish short pieces on each of the following budget areas: economic security, healthy people and the environment, thriving communities and education and opportunity. (See our budget analysis in the Progress Index)

Senate Budget Does Not Take Full Advantage of Federal Funds

Posted by jeffc at Mar 30, 2009 10:30 AM |
Filed under: State Budget

The Senate budget contains $2.7 billion in cuts for the Department of Social and Health Services, the primary agency responsible for health care and economic security programs in the state. These cuts are partially replaced by new federal funding. However, the Senate proposal cuts too deeply, resulting in a budget that does not fully take advantage of federal funds.

In order to keep from losing available federal recovery funds, the state must avoid deep cuts such as these by raising new revenue.


Federal increases

Of the $2.7 billion in cuts, only 63 percent is offset by increases in federal funding. This includes an increase in the federal government's share of Medicaid spending, a boost in food assistance funding, and money available to pay for caseload increases in TANF.


Lost federal money

Federal recovery funds are contingent on continued state investments in these areas. Fully 25 percent of the cuts in DSHS are associated with loss of federal money. Many of these cuts are in the Medicaid program. Some examples:

  • A $33 million cut in reimbursements for providers of Medicaid and SCHIP managed care services will result in a loss of $44 million in federal money, more than doubling the total size of the cut.
  • A $46 million cut in reimbursements for inpatient hospital stays results in a loss of $61 million in federal money.
  • A $38 million cut in nursing home rates results in a loss of $56 million in federal funds.
  • A $18 million cut in reimbursements for pediatric services results in a $25 million loss in federal funds.


Other cuts not replaced by federal funding

Aside from those mentioned above, there are $311 million cuts in funding for health care and economic security programs that will not be replaced by federal dollars and are therefore real cuts that affect the health and economic security of Washingtonians. The largest include severe restrictions on GA-U eligibility and reductions in mental health services.*


* A $69 million cut in TANF is listed in the LEAP documents as not having a direct federal impact. However, this may not fully account for limitations on federal TANF money. We'll update this as we find out more.



Food Stamp Increase Provides Boost to Washington Families and Economy

Posted by bens at Mar 27, 2009 12:10 PM |

Almost 700,000 Washingtonians – mostly families with children – will get an increase in their food stamp benefits starting April 1. The increase, a key component of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed into law by President Obama, will give most families an extra $20-$24 per person per month to help meet basic needs.

The increase will also help Washington’s struggling economy. Food stamps are considered to be one of the most effective means for economic stimulus because lower-income people are much more likely to spend their available resources right away. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that every $1 in food stamps expands the economy by $1.84.

In Washington, roughly $90 million in additional food stamps will flow into the state between April and September of this year. This will generate an estimated $170 million in total economic stimulus during that time.*

*Source: Analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The State of Washington's Children

Posted by jeffc at Mar 23, 2009 04:30 PM |

Washington Kids Count, a project of the UW's Human Services Policy Center, is releasing the new edition of The State of Washington's Children.

This year's report focuses on poverty. A particularly notable finding is that rising unemployment rates could increase the number of children living in poverty by 37,000. That assumes that the unemployment rate reaches 9 percent, a likely scenario according to the most current state projections.

The authors point out that state government can help mitigate the impact of child poverty by improving work supports and sustaining critical benefits, a timely reminder as we await the legislature's budget proposals. In a KPLU radio piece on the report, lead author Lori Pfingst points out the importance of the Working Families Rebate as a tool to help lift families with children out of poverty.

The report is currently being pre-released to legislators and reporters. If you'd like to see an early copy, contact Lori Pfingst at 206-616-1506 or

Official Forecast Out, Now What?

Posted by jeffc at Mar 19, 2009 08:30 AM |
Filed under: State Budget, State Economy

The legislative session is halfway over and the discussion over what to do about the unprecedented deficit is not much further along than when the session started. Lawmakers have been waiting to hear the final shoe drop on the budget deficit, and today it did.

Earlier this morning, the Economic and Revenue Forecast Council released the official revenue forecast upon which budgeting decisions will be made. It includes an additional reduction in revenue of $553 million for fiscal years 2009 through 2011. Now that we have this number, the caseload forecast, and more clarity on the federal stimulus package, policymakers should have the information they need to write a budget.

That budget will most certainly include deep cuts in public programs and services. Hopefully the budget process will provide a basis for a broader public discussion about the importance of those investments and the need to have an open conversation about revenue.

One of the most striking things about the forecast released today is that the ERFC now expects general fund revenue to remain flat from 2007-09 to 2009-11. This means we will have more children to educate, more elderly to care for, and more unemployed families in need of health insurance, but no additional money to pay for that growth.

We can change that outcome by considering other ways to increase revenue. Thirty Washingtonian economists and public policy experts signed a letter last month agreeing that revenue options should be on the table. "Implementing deep cuts in government spending and declining to raise revenue through tax increases is not an effective strategy to guide Washington State out of this recession," the letter said. We have all the information we need. Now it’s time to act.

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