Deeper budget cuts would put lives on the line
The severity of Washington’s budget situation continues to grow. In the face of a further decline in resources needed to ensure our state’s economic recovery, the Governor will be calling the Legislature into a special session on November 28th with the direction to cut an additional $2 billion.
This approach places the burden of the economic downturn on the shoulders of our most vulnerable citizens - children, the unemployed, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Unless policymakers adopt sensible and immediate revenue increases when they gather in Olympia in November, the toll will be devastating.
As a starting point, state agencies have submitted proposals to reflect a 10 percent reduction in their budgets. Such a scenario would involve:
- Suspension of prescription drug coverage for 500,000 individuals.
- Over 18,000 less students enrolled in community and technical colleges.
- Elimination of food assistance for 14,000 low-income legal immigrants.
- Reductions in domestic violence services and assistance for children with high behavior needs, affecting 4,500 children.
- The loss of health care for 25,000 children.
- Elimination or reduction of mental health, long term care, and developmental disability services for more than 80,000 individuals.
- Elimination of support to ensure positive birth outcomes for 54,000 at-risk mothers.
- Elimination of health care coverage for 36,000 working adults.
Keep in mind: these proposed cuts represent the starting point for budget reductions. By the time the Legislature convenes for special session, another revenue forecast will have occurred with all indications pointing to further decline. This will almost certainly result in more cuts, which means more people without health insurance, more people out of work, and less college graduates to fill the jobs of the future. Not a prescription for economy recovery, and certainly not what we need for a vibrant and prosperous state.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. Policymakers can and should raise additional resources through a combination of eliminating wasteful tax breaks and temporarily increasing general tax rates or sin tax rates.
Stay tuned to schmudget. In the coming weeks we’ll be posting more budget analysis and offering options for shoring up our economy now while expanding prosperity and economic growth.