The state’s investments over the next two years make slight gains in the lives of some Washingtonians, while others will be no better off. Overall, little is done to put us on a path towards long-term prosperity for all Washingtonians.
The budget decisions can best be characterized as the good, the bad, and the ugly (see table for budget comparison):
- Washington state will take full advantage of the health reform by expanding Medicaid to an additional 250,000 people.
- Routine dental care- such as teeth cleanings, dentures, and fillings- is restored for adults who currently receive Medicaid or will be newly eligible- an estimated 700,000 people.
- An additional 1,700 kids will be able to participate in early learning preschool, and funding is provided to make improvements in the quality of child care and early learning.
- Food benefits for legal immigrants are partially restored, bringing the benefit closer to being equal with all other recipients of food support.
- New investments are made towards meeting our obligation to fully fund public schools and further college tuition increases are averted, at least for the next year.
- Fewer families struggling from job loss will get adequate resources to find and keep work. After a 26 percent decline in funding these services over the last few years, an additional $162 million was removed, that will directly impact our economy.
- Cost-of-living increases for teachers are suspended for the fifth year in a row, jeopardizing our ability to attract and retain quality educators.
- A total of $58 million was swept out of a fund dedicated to cleaning up 5,000 toxic sites throughout Washington state that threaten the quality of our air, water, and land.
- Despite over a billion dollars of proposed revenue, lawmakers chose to protect wealthy business interests over kids and families.
- Lawmakers moved in the wrong direction, enacting 17 more tax breaks, costing us $15 million over the next two years.
- The budget does not put us on a long-term path to fully funding basic education. It is expected to cost $4.5 billion by 2018 to meet our constitutional obligation to fund public schools. While a modest investment is made towards that requirement over the next two years, no additional revenue was raised to ensure we can meet our full obligations.
- Following four years of deep cuts to college financial aid, services for seniors, and support for families looking for work, the budget does almost nothing to reinvest in these public priorities.
A strong economy with a strong middle class is good for everyone. And it doesn’t happen by accident, it is the result of targeted investments and clear priorities. Throughout this legislative session, policymakers had ample opportunities to bolster resources through closing tax breaks and extending current taxes. Going forward lawmakers must begin choosing our kids and future prosperity over special business interests.