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Four community leaders join the Budget & Policy Center board

Posted by Melinda Young-Flynn at Sep 07, 2018 02:15 PM |
Filed under: BPC News

We are pleased to welcome the following people to the Washington State Budget & Policy Center board of directors! They join a group of dedicated community leaders, academics, policy experts, and strategists who help shape the direction of our organization.  

Irene Basloe Saraf, community advocate

Irene Basloe SarafIrene is the founding board president of the Washington Housing Alliance Action Fund, and she also served on the board of the Tenants Union of Washington. Prior to moving to Seattle in 2003, Irene was the legislative director of the National Low Income Housing Coalition in Washington, D.C. Irene has a bachelor’s in humanities from Yale, a master’s in public policy from the University of Chicago, and a juris doctor from New York University. She is especially passionate about how the Budget & Policy Center’s work aligns with her commitment to advocating for the needs of people with low incomes. “I understand how access to stable, safe, and affordable housing supports people in the other aspects of their lives – education, employment, health, family – and that government investment is often necessary to ensure housing quality and affordability for low-income people,” she says. “Our social safety net depends on an equitable budget that includes sufficient taxation and ample investment in programs serving low- and moderate-income people.”

Karan Gill, chief of staff of King County Councilmember Dave Upthegrove 

Karan Gill headshotIn addition to his responsibilities with the King County Council, Karan (“ker-in”) is the lead on budget issues and oversees a variety of other policy issues for the district representing much of South King County. Previously, Karan led the public policy efforts for a local nonprofit, was the legislative aide to Washington State House Speaker Frank Chopp, and was campaign manager for Senator Kevin Van De Wege. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington and a Master of Public Administration from Seattle University. “The mission and the work of the Budget & Policy Center is personal to me,” he says. “I was raised in a low-income household in South King County and witnessed first-hand many of the inequities that families face in our community. With that perspective, I have been fortunate to work on the state and local side of public policy to help advance policies through an equity and social justice lens.” Karan, who previously served on our community advisory board, is dedicated to undoing racial disparities in public institutions and fighting for more resources for those communities who are furthest from opportunity.

Jan Harrison, director of diversity stewardship and Achievement Rewards for College Scientists (ARCS) Foundation liaison, University of Washington 

Jan Harrison headshotJan has been with the University of Washington for more than 10 years. In her current role, she works to build healthy and productive communities and organizations through the application of critical race theory and impact-driven philanthropy. She also serves as a liaison for Achievement Rewards for College Scientists Foundation, an organization that supports graduate education in science, engineering, and medical research. She has a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Western Washington University and a master’s in cultural studies from UW. She is excited about helping the Budget & Policy Center serve the needs of populations who have historically faced barriers to opportunity through innovative, data-driven policies. “Economic, education, health care, and social inequities aren’t random, but are the outcomes of race-based oppressions embedded in policy and budget decisions,” she says. “As a race scholar, community activist, and Black American woman, I have unique perspectives on social areas concerning fiscal allocations and policy development that have been under-emphasized and under-utilized.”

Lauren Hipp, early learning senior campaign director for MomsRising

Lauren Hipp headshotIn her role at MomsRising, Lauren works to advance the organization’s commitment to ensuring all families have access to affordable, high-quality early care and education opportunities that are welcoming and inclusive, and that create environments where all children can thrive. She has almost 10 years of experience in the early learning field doing policy, advocacy and organizing, and program implementation in both Washington state and nationally. She has previously worked with Thrive by Five Washington, the League of Education Voters, and the University of Washington. She has a Master of Public Administration from the Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington. She looks forward to supporting our organization's work on increasing opportunity and prosperity for all families in Washington, including our focus on racial justice. “I believe in the mission and guiding values of the organization and deeply appreciate the analysis and focus on budget and tax policy to ensure Washington is budgeting with a centering on families and communities,” she says.


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A Conversation with our Outgoing Narver Fellow

Posted by April Dickinson at Jun 07, 2018 02:35 PM |
Filed under: BPC News

Hana Jang just completed her Betty Jane Narver Policy Fellowship with the Budget & Policy Center. She is receiving her master’s degree from the University of Washington School of Social Work this month. An advocate for social and economic justice, Hana’s studies focused on policies that promote economic prosperity and early childhood learning and development. We checked in with her to hear more about her time with us and what her hopes are for the future.

Why did you apply for the Narver Fellowship with us? Hana at Budget Matters in Seattle

I first learned of the Budget & Policy Center early into my graduate program at the University of Washington School of Social Work. I had just moved to Seattle after spending a number of years abroad, and found the Budget & Policy Center’s thoughtful and rigorous analyses to be helpful in orienting me to the policy landscape of Washington state. The Center has an amazing team of policy wonks who center the long-term well-being of Washingtonians through state-level policy analysis and advocacy, and I thought this would be a unique opportunity to learn from the experts.


What are some highlights of what you’ve learned?

One of the most exciting aspects of the Narver Fellowship was being able to expand on my prior knowledge and experience with policy advocacy, and apply it to the work being done at the Budget & Policy Center. I had the privilege of working closely with the Center’s senior analyst, Jennifer Tran, and communications director, Melinda Young-Flynn, on a soon-to-be-published brief highlighting how child savings accounts promote economic opportunities for Washington kids and families. Through this work, I was able to take a lead role in researching and analyzing data on child savings accounts, help with the production process, and build relationships with community organizations, legislators, and thought-partners to help elevate the conversation around asset-building in Washington.  

Being a Narver fellow also granted me access to a plethora of resources and opportunities to build knowledge in areas I wanted to grow in. I learned about the critical role the state budget plays in advancing policies that best uplift and care for Washington communities, while partnering with organizations to mobilize folks on the ground to push for change in Olympia.

What were some of your favorite experiences during your fellowship?

I have had so many amazing experiences as a Narver fellow, it is almost overwhelming to think about; but the most meaningful experiences came out of building relationships with folks who are working in various realms of policy and advocacy throughout Washington state, and throughout the country.

I had the chance to shadow Senator Rebecca Saldaña and learn about her approach to partnering with her district to work toward change through the legislative process. Also, I had the opportunity to shadow Lori Pfingst, chief of policy and programs at the Department of Social & Health Services [and former Budget & Policy Center staffer!] to gain an understanding of how state-level departments are creating pathways for every Washingtonian to move toward fulfilling their goals and dreams.

And although my time at the Center was filled with opportunities to learn and grow, I still most enjoyed the time staff members came together to eat lunch, share stories, and laugh uncontrollably together!

Did anything surprise you from your time with us?

The folks at the Center are doing really expert, dynamic, meaningful, and time-consuming work. Yet I was surprised by how much time was invested in my professional development and mentorship. I was regarded as an important voice at the table, and was treated as a member of staff.

A lot of time and energy goes into ensuring complex ideas and policies are accessible and approachable to the public. And although it was not surprising given the caliber of the organization, it was great to know that Budget & Policy is committed to going the extra mile to ensure that their materials are just that. 
How has the fellowship supported your career goals?

I am very fortunate to be starting a new phase of my career at a time when there are meaningful opportunities to engage in the policy arena and push the needle toward equity. The Narver Fellowship has equipped me with the tools to advocate for policies that promote equity and inclusion and work toward dismantling harmful narratives – and to do so in partnership with communities. I am grateful to the Budget & Policy Center for serving as a model for advancing bold policies and legislation, and I am hopeful for the opportunity to work with the Budget & Policy Center again in the future!

All of us at the Budget & Policy Center wish Hana the best of luck in the future!

Measuring Progress in the Blue Mountain Region: A New Approach to Community-Led Solutions

Posted by Melinda Young-Flynn at Sep 12, 2016 07:10 PM |
Filed under: Progress Index, BPC News
By Lori Pfingst, former research and policy director of the Washington State Budget & Policy Center

In the fall of 2015, Community Council of the Blue Mountain Region – in collaboration with Sherwood Trust, Walla Walla County Department of Community Health, and Blue Mountain Community Foundation – partnered with the Budget & Policy Center to launch a community-driven, results-focused process to create a more prosperous region. Now we are proud to release Building a Better Blue Mountain Region, a report summarizing this collaborative effort and highlighting a new, innovative way to support community-driven solutions.

The Blue Mountain Region includes Walla Walla and Columbia counties in Washington state and the northeastern part of Umatilla County in Oregon. It is home to a diverse and growing population and economy, and it is known for its higher education system, wineries, agriculture, and small-business community.  

Blue Mountain region photos

We used the Budget & Policy Center’s own Progress Index framework as a starting point for identifying local data that could tell a preliminary story about the region’s well-being. The story that emerged from the data revealed areas for improvement in the community as well as bright spots upon which to build. For example:

  • The Blue Mountain Region ranks high for overall quality of life and has a strong healthcare infrastructure;
  • Economic hardship is high throughout the region, especially among the Latino population, which is driving population growth; 
  • Among residents born outside of the United States, those who have obtained citizenship have greater economic security than residents who are non-citizens, and they have lower rates of economic hardship than their peers born in the United States; and 
  • Education outcomes – like kindergarten readiness, reading ability by the end of third grade, and high school graduation rates – vary considerably by race, ethnicity, and district/school, but many schools perform better than the state average on these important indicators, offering the opportunity to learn what is working for students.

Community Council and its partners used Budget & Policy Center data to hold two "data walks" – events where members of the community review and discuss what the data says about them – with Blue Mountain region residents. The attendees of these events were asked to discuss what the data in the infographics meant to them, answering the following questions: Does the data align with their understanding of the community? What conditions in the community explain why the data looks the way it does? How do residents want the story emerging from the data to change? And, what strengths does the community possess to change the story? 

The conversations that took place during the data walks were dynamic and inspiring, giving Community Council insight into the ideas and aspirations of residents. It also gave the project partner organizations a better sense of the network of individuals and organizations they can tap into to achieve community-driven progress. [See pages 22-23 of the report for a summary of the data walk discussions.]

Thanks to feedback from the participants in the first data walk, project partners made the second data walk more accessible. It was held in the evening so people who work during the day could attend. A Spanish interpreter and bilingual materials were offered so more members of the Latino community could be part of the conversation. It also provided free childcare.

The partner organizations are now using the information gathered from the conversations at these two events in strategic planning efforts for the Blue Mountain region. With the data and the initial conversations as a guide, they plan to continue conversations with a growing network of residents to create a community-driven vision for the improvement of the well-being of the region and its people. 

And at the Budget & Policy Center, this collaboration with our partners in eastern Washington marks a new way of doing our work. We recognize that data is much more powerful – and a better tool for developing and advancing effective public policies – when it is shaped by the stories of the people it represents. Building data walks and other community engagement tools into our research ensures that our analysis is informed by and accountable to the people and communities behind the numbers. They are the people and communities whose well-being we seek to ensure in our work to create a just, prosperous, and equitable Washington. 

The Budget & Policy Center Celebrates 10 Years of Promoting Shared Prosperity

Posted by Melinda Young-Flynn at May 23, 2016 12:10 PM |
Filed under: BPC News

In 2005, a visionary group of public policy experts, community leaders, and social justice advocates joined forces to create an organization that would ensure that Washington state invests in the priorities that create a more just and prosperous state. Priorities like schools and health care, economic security and jobs.

A year later, the Washington State Budget & Policy Center was officially open for business. The organization’s goal: to advance the well-being of Washington communities and improve the economic and social opportunity of all in the state – with a particular focus on people struggling to get by.

Today, all of us at the Budget & Policy Center are proud to be celebrating 10 years of fulfilling that goal. 

We have spent the past decade conducting the rock-solid research and analysis it takes to develop common-sense policy solutions. We’ve put our findings into the hands of legislators, decision makers, and grassroots advocates who mobilize for change. In so doing, we’ve worked in a bipartisan way to help shape the public debate and build diverse coalitions – all to help Washington be a state where everyone has the opportunity to thrive. 

Throughout this time, the Budget & Policy Center has become the go-to source for comprehensive budget analysis and policy solutions that respond to crucial issues in Olympia and across our state. The result has been many significant policy wins that keep Washingtonians moving forward – from enacting the Working Families Tax Rebate to eliminating wasteful corporate tax breaks, expanding Medicaid healthcare coverage to passing legislation that supports early childhood education. (Click on the graphic for many more details.)

Click on the image to see the full two-page PDF.

10-Year Policy Impacts carousel

That isn’t to say that we haven’t faced challenges. A historic recession that set our economy and workers back, cuts to public investments that put many people at risk of falling behind, and repeated ballot initiative attempts to help powerful interests at the expense of the common good, to name a few. And there’s plenty left to do – especially turning around the most upside-down tax structure in the nation, where people with the lowest incomes pay seven times the rate in state and local taxes than the wealthiest 1 percent.

At the Budget & Policy Center, we will remain a key player defending our state against these challenges. We have been, and will remain, focused on the long game. We share a vision of Washington as a state where all children go to great schools; workers earn what they need to build a secure future; the environment is healthy; and all communities can thrive. A state where people from all races, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds, and zip codes have equal opportunity for prosperity. Where the tax code isn’t set up to favor the powerful few. 

Speaking of that long game, we’d like to show you what a difference 10 years has made. We invite you to click here or on the graphic above for a sampling of the work the Budget & Policy Center has done and the policies we’ve helped shape in our first decade. These successes are the result of the passion and commitment of our hardworking staff and board. They are a testament to the support of so many policymakers, community leaders, partner organizations, students, activists, and others we’ve worked with over the years – as well as the many generous individuals and foundations that believe in our work and invest their dollars in us. Together we are a powerful community of change-makers.

And we are just getting started. We will continue to provide the data, develop the strong messaging, and build the grassroots partnerships needed to make sure everyone in this Evergreen State can reach their full potential. We look forward to the next 10 years and beyond.

10-year design element 72 dpi

Q&A with Executive Director Misha Werschkul

Posted by Melinda Young-Flynn at Oct 14, 2015 08:55 PM |
Filed under: BPC News

The Budget & Policy Center welcomed economic justice advocate Misha Werschkul as its new leader in September. Misha, a long-time collaborator with our organization, has made a career out of building coalitions in support of progressive statewide campaigns in Washington. We talked with her about what she brings to the Center, what's in store under her leadership, and much more.  

Misha Werschkul headshot

What makes you most excited about working here? 

The team! I have been fortunate to partner with the talented Budget & Policy Center staff on a range of campaigns for nearly a decade. I am so impressed by their strategic insight and their passion for the work they do. They produce meaningful, credible research and they are responsible for making major contributions to advance innovative policies. I’m truly honored to now be part of this team that has such an impact on Washington’s families and communities.  

What role do you think the Budget & Policy Center plays in shaping the policy debates in this state? 

The Budget & Policy Center is the organization in Washington that is pushing for policymakers and influencers to keep the focus on the long term. Throughout my time in Washington state’s policy arena, I have become ever more aware of the need for long-term reforms in our state – especially around the revenue policies that shape our state economy. The Center’s ability to focus on a big picture while building alliances is so unique. And it’s a much-needed voice in the public policy debates.

How do you hope to build on this long-term focus and vision?

My primary goal with the Budget & Policy Center is to build on our already considerable strengths. To help make our voice even stronger and increase our impact. Our team’s research and policy expertise – in areas including helping hardworking families get ahead, promoting public engagement in budget and policy matters, and making sure the state raises the revenue it needs equitably  – combined with their strategic communications, advocacy, and outreach efforts are helping set our state on a path toward shared prosperity. 

What are your most pressing priorities? 

I will be devoting much of my time in my first six months toward deepening relationships with and getting to know the many people who help make this organization so strong – its staff, board, supporters, community partners, policymakers, and the like. I will be asking lots of questions to better understand the needs and priorities of this organization’s many partners and allies.

I am also excited about our fourth annual Budget Matters event on December 9. This half-day summit will feature keynote speaker Patrisse Cullors from #BlackLivesMatter and spotlight the need to make sure there’s a racial justice focus in policymaking. It’s so clear we are long overdue in changing the policies that have played a role in allowing racial inequities to persist in everything from income to incarceration rates. Advancing racial equity has been a strategic priority for the Center for some time. This summit is a reflection of our commitment to providing a forum for a wide range of communities to contribute to the ongoing dialogue about disparities in our public policies – and to discuss the steps we must take to start making things right. 

And of course, I intend to support the priorities that the Center’s staff are currently working on. Right now that includes playing a key role in challenging Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1366, continuing to lead in efforts to lift Washingtonians out of poverty, and making plans to use the 2016 legislative session to show how important it is for government to invest in schools, safe communities, and other building blocks of economic growth. 

What made you interested in pursuing public policy as a career?

I grew up in a politically aware family and was raised from an early age to see the connection between public policy decisions and quality of life for my family. That I was able to breathe clean air, attend public school, and hike and boat on the beautiful Rogue River in Oregon was all a result of public policy decisions. My parents taught me that grassroots advocacy and good political leaders played a key role in helping provide pathways to opportunities for my generation and future generations. So when it came time for me to choose a college major, it was a no-brainer to study political science and economics. I have been fortunate to devote my career to advancing economic policies that make people’s lives better and our communities stronger.

What do you like to do in your free time?

I love living in the Puget Sound, where my husband, Josh, and I can easily get out to the mountains for hiking or camping in the summer and skiing in the winter. When the sun is shining closer to home, you might find me walking around the Columbia City neighborhood, running around Seward Park, paddleboarding on Lake Washington, and growing vegetables in my neighborhood p-patch. These days, we are also spending a lot of our free time preparing the house for our first child, who we’re excited to welcome in early February.   

What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

I grew up in a town with fewer than 100 residents in southwest Oregon called Agness and attended school in a one-room schoolhouse. My life looks a lot different these days, but I do try to keep to my rural roots by raising chickens and doing that gardening as much as possible! 

Any final thoughts?

I hope to see and meet lots of new Budget & Policy Center friends on December 9 at our Budget Matters Summit!

Contact Misha at mishaw(at), 206.262.0973, ext. 222.


A Q&A with Our 2014-15 Narver Fellow

Posted by Melinda Young-Flynn at May 15, 2015 04:40 PM |
Filed under: BPC News

Eritrea Habtemarium just completed her (highly successful) Narver fellowship with the Budget & Policy Center. She will receive her M.A. in policy studies this June from University of Washington Bothell – with a capstone project focused on immigrant perceptions of crime and policing in Seattle. We checked in with her to hear more about her time with us and what her hopes are for the future. 

eritreaWhat made you decide to apply for the Narver fellowship with us?

I decided to apply for the Narver fellowship because it was a fantastic opportunity to learn about policy in Washington state from an advocacy-oriented policy research center. Up until this point, most of my policy-related work experience and educational background focused on national and international issues. The fellowship presented an opportunity to learn about Washington state policies and politics from a variety of perspectives. It also offered me a great chance to gain hands-on experience and develop critical skills in research and analysis.

What are some highlights of what you’ve learned?

I learned so many things about the dynamic policy arena in Washington state and about policy work in general. One of the most significant things I learned is how important messaging is, especially when dealing with contentious and sensitive issues. For instance, while I was working on my blog series on immigrants, I learned that it is not enough to have sound research. In order to get that research across, you must understand the perspective of those who will read and use your work. And you must message the piece in a way that will reach those audiences and resonate with them.

Also, I learned how involved it is to move policy in our state. I now have a better understanding of the importance of coalition-building and strategizing. 

What were some of your favorite experiences during your fellowship?

I was fortunate enough to have several incredible experiences during my fellowship. My field placement with OneAmerica was fantastic. It offered me an opportunity to get another organizational perspective on legislative engagement. As a result, I saw how organizations with different focus areas take varied approaches to reach shared goals. The staff at OneAmerica was so welcoming and I was able to learn about a variety of issues on the local, state, national, and international level that impact immigrants.

I also got to shadow Senator Pramila Jayapal in Olympia. This experience gave me great insight into the tremendous work our legislators undertake to serve our state. Senator Jayapal is incredibly inspirational. My shadowing experience provided me with great perspective and encouragement that I will carry with me as I continue my work. 

Above all, direct mentorship from (former Executive Director and now Senior Adviser of the Budget & Policy Center) Remy Trupin was my favorite experience. Learning from his insight on policy, politics, and advocacy in the state laid a great foundation for my fellowship. He helped me understand the dynamic policy environment in Washington state and the processes beyond research that help move great policies from ideas to law. I will forever be grateful for his honesty and encouragement throughout this experience.

Did anything surprise you from your time with us?

I was surprised by how vibrant the policy arena is in Washington state. It was interesting to see how progressive we are in some aspects and to see how far we have to go in others. I was also surprised by how fast-paced a legislative session is and how demanding it can be on all involved in the process. Despite having a tremendous workload, the Budget & Policy Center staff was involved in numerous important policy decisions debated in the state Legislature this session. I was impressed by their ability to manage it all and by their deep passion for the topics and policies they were involved in forming. It was truly motivating working with and witnessing the staff’s dedication and commitment to the work. 

What do you hope to do in your career?

In my career, I hope to be involved in policy work centered on immigrant and refugee populations that combines research and advocacy. This fellowship helped me understand the importance of research and data, and has ultimately solidified my desire to use research to advocate for social and economic justice.

All of us at the Budget & Policy Center wish Eritrea the best of luck in the future! 

In the Media: PBS NewsHour and the Stranger

Posted by taral at Apr 23, 2014 06:30 PM |
Filed under: BPC News

As the minimum wage debate continues to rage here in Seattle, we are contributing to the discussion through media hits. 

Here are a few recent examples:


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Thank you for attending Budget Matters

Our Budget Matters 2018 policy conference took place on November 13 at Seattle Center. john a. powell from the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society and Gov. Jay Inslee were the keynotes. Watch their presentations and other presentations from the conference on TVW.  

Our policy priorities

Washington state should be a place where all our residents have strong communities, great schools, and the chance for a bright future. Our 2017-2019 Legislative Agenda outlines the priorities we are working to advance.

Testimonies in Olympia

Misha TVW
Watch our 2018 legislative session testimonies on TVW: