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Showing blog entries tagged as: Federal Issues


U.S. Supreme Court decision puts Washington’s economic well-being at risk

Statement from Washington State Budget & Policy Center Executive Director Misha Werschkul 
 
The U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Janus v. American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees will have a negative impact on all of us who rely on the critical public services that public sector employees deliver in communities across the state. And it will especially hurt the employees themselves – hundreds of thousands of firefighters, teachers, park rangers, nurses, and other public sector workers.


Since the 1970s, the U.S. economy has become increasingly out of balance, with gains in income concentrating among the very wealthiest, while low- and middle-wage workers have seen stagnating or declining incomes. In Washington state, the top 1 percent has an average income 22 times higher than the average income of the entire bottom 99 percent (see our "Building an Inclusive Economy" report for more details). A key driver of increased wage inequality is declining union membership, which has weakened the bargaining power of working households, especially in private sector jobs.   

Washington state has one of the highest rates of union membership in the country. A majority of state and local government employees are currently represented by unions, and these unions have led the way on efforts to reduce poverty, promote equity, and improve public services – both through the collective bargaining process and through public policy advocacy. Public sector unions have been key partners in efforts to raise the statewide minimum wage, provide paid family and medical leave to all workers, and make sure all children have access to a great public education.

This Supreme Court decision goes far beyond an attack on public sector workers. It is a setback for efforts to promote shared prosperity in Washington state and across the country. Now it is time for our state and local elected leaders to respond with policies that strengthen the economic well-being of Washington's working people and communities. They must enact and enforce stronger labor standards in our state, implement and modernize the Working Families Tax Rebate, protect workers' rights to organize, and ensure sufficient funding for vital public services.

For more details on the importance of public sector unions, read this Washington Post article by economist Jared Bernstein: "Bend the trend: Reviving unionization in America." 

KIDS COUNT: Inaccurate census data could jeopardize progress for Washington’s kids

Posted by Melinda Young-Flynn at Jun 27, 2018 09:50 AM |
 
Nearly 1 in 6 Washington children under age 5 live in neighborhoods where there’s a high risk that the U.S. census will fail to count them accurately, says a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. An inaccurate 2020 census will erode essential public services for children in Washington and across the country, according to the 2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book released today.


Funding for essential health care, early education and K-12 learning, and other basic services depend on an accurate count of our communities. In Washington state, more than $3 billion in federal dollars are allocated yearly to Medicaid, food assistance, Head Start and other programs that help families meet basic needs. 

KIDS COUNT 2018 Data Book

Low-income children, children of color and children living in immigrant households are at greatest risk of being undercounted. The census may also miss children growing up in rural areas, tribal lands or in urban neighborhoods where census workers may have a hard time reaching households.

Further, the Trump administration’s proposed addition of an unnecessary question about citizenship will discourage countless others from filling out the 2020 census form. People without documentation and their families will be afraid that participation will result in having their lives, their families or their communities torn apart by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

“To give kids the full and equal opportunities to grow and thrive so they can be counted on in the future, we need to count them now,” said Paola Maranan, executive director of the Children’s Alliance. “Without robust efforts to get an accurate 2020 census, we place our shared future in jeopardy.”

In Washington state, an estimated 67,000 of the state’s 447,000 children under age 5 live in census tracts where households responded poorly by mail to the 2010 census—and may do so again in 2020. 

The Data Book notes that the threat of greater inaccuracies in the census coincides with the child population passing a landmark: in 2020, most of the U.S. population aged 18 and under will be of color.

“Low-income children, children of color and kids living in immigrant families stand to be disproportionately undercounted, while also having the most to lose as vital programs are sapped of public investment,” said Misha Werschkul, executive director of the Washington State Budget & Policy Center.

The annual KIDS COUNT Data Book ranks each state across four domains of child well-being: health; education; economic well-being; and family and community.

Washington state, which ranked 15th among the 50 states overall, ranked in the top 5 for child health. The percentage of uninsured Washington children fell by half from 2010 to 2016, from 6 to 3 percent. This progress is partially due to state-level efforts to connect more children with affordable, preventive health care through Apple Health for Kids. Apple Health for Kids is supported by federal investments in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, with funding allocations that depend on population estimates derived from the census.

Our state has the greatest room for improvement in the education domain, where it ranks 26th. One in 5 students don’t graduate on time, and almost 60 percent of three- and four-year-olds are not enrolled in preschool.

KIDS COUNT in Washington recommends that two things about the flawed census be changed. First, federal officials need to allocate sufficient funds to support a more accurate census in which as many people as possible can be counted. Second, the census form should be true to the purpose of the count that was originally stipulated in the U.S. Constitution: to count all people who live within U.S. borders. Questions that ask about citizenship will undermine participation—and they are simply not required.

Read the full 2018 KIDS COUNT Data Book. And read the KIDS COUNT Washington state 2018 profile 

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Media Contacts: 

Melinda Young-Flynn, melinday(at)budgetandpolicy(dot)org, (206) 262-0973, x223
Adam Hyla E. Holdorf, adam(at)childrensalliance(dot)org, (206) 324-0340 ext. 18

About KIDS COUNT in Washington
KIDS COUNT in Washington is a partnership of the Children’s Alliance and the Washington State Budget & Policy Center, made possible by support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation. It pursues measurable improvements in child outcomes through equitable public policy measures. For more information, visit www.kidscountwa.org

About the Annie E. Casey Foundation
The Casey Foundation creates a brighter future for the nation’s children by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity and transform struggling communities into healthier places to live, work and grow. Visit datacenter.kidscount.org for the most recent national, state, and local data on child well-being from the Casey Foundation's KIDS COUNT Data Center. 

 

Washington state’s members of Congress should reject SNAP cuts in the Farm Bill

Posted by April Dickinson at Apr 27, 2018 05:30 PM |
Filed under: Federal Issues, Poverty
By Hana Jang, Narver policy fellow

Now that Republicans in Congress have released the details of their partisan Farm Bill, it is clear that the bill’s proposals for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are as harmful as we feared. This bill would take our communities in the wrong direction when it comes to the well-being of our residents. Nearly 1 million Washingtonians use SNAP to feed their families, and this bill would result in many seeing their benefits reduced or cut altogether, putting them at risk of being hungry or falling into poverty. The Farm Bill must be rejected by Washington state’s members of Congress.


In Washington state, the proposed changes to SNAP would:

  • Create hardship for thousands of people throughout Washington state as a result of unnecessary new work requirements. Most people who participate in SNAP and can work, already do. But proposals in the bill would require almost all adult participants not receiving disability benefits – including people between the ages of 50 and 59 and parents with children over the age of 6 – to prove every month that they are working or attending an employment program at least 20 hours a week or that they are exempt from the requirement. This additional administrative process could mean that participants who are exempt or are meeting the requirement could have their benefits at risk if there is a slip-up in their monthly tracking. And people subject to the work requirement who cannot meet the minimum hours prescribed will lose their access to SNAP. Placing additional barriers to access to food assistance could mean people have to go without food.
  • Impose penalties on people who can’t meet the new requirements, including people who are working in jobs with insecure hours. The bill contains a provision that would penalize workers who already face hardship due to low wages or unpredictable schedules. Under this provision, failure to meet the minimum number of required monthly work hours just once would kick a SNAP participant off the program for 12 months. And a second failure would result in them losing benefits for 36 months. They could only regain benefits if they found a job that provided enough hours or if their circumstances change in a way that exempt them from this requirement. In other words, people who have fluctuating work schedules, which can already lead to financial insecurity, could be subject to greater financial hardship because of a schedule dictated by their employer.
  • Misuse tax dollars that should be strengthening our communities. Under the previous 2014 Farm Bill, 10 states (including Washington state) agreed to pilot new and innovative SNAP work and job-training programs to help identify effective ways to help SNAP participants obtain meaningful work that leads to success. The pilot programs are due to release their results in the next few years. Yet the current Farm Bill is proposing major changes to SNAP’s job training and education programs without waiting for the critical data and research that shows how the pilot programs are working. It would ultimately invest significant taxpayer dollars toward creating a new system to track SNAP participants’ work hours and an underfunded expansion of untested job training and education programs, rather than providing needed food assistance to families in our communities.

SNAP is already one of our nation’s most powerful and effective poverty- and hunger-reduction programs. It helps feed over 40 million Americans and keeps eight million out of poverty. Our U.S. representatives from Washington state must reject these proposals that would harm people who are working to make ends meet. They must protect SNAP’s legacy of trying to ensure everyone in our country can put food on the table.

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Threats to food assistance in Farm Bill could harm thousands of Washington households

Posted by April Dickinson at Apr 05, 2018 07:15 PM |
Filed under: Federal Issues, Poverty

By Misha Werschkul, executive director, and Hana Jang, Narver fellow

When Congress returns from spring recess on April 9, they will begin considering a Farm Bill that could undermine nearly four decades of progress in addressing hunger by including harmful cuts or changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (aka SNAP, and formerly known as food stamps), our nation’s largest and most effective anti-hunger program.

SNAP, which provides food assistance for one in every eight Washingtonians, helps people get back on their feet while boosting health, nutrition, and children’s learning. SNAP reaches over 900,000 Washington residents, including: families with children, teachers, support staff, cashiers, retail staff, home health aides, and many others. Many SNAP participants work, but often have jobs that offer low-wages or not enough hours to make ends meet. Nationally, SNAP keeps more than 8 million people out of poverty – including nearly four million children. And SNAP provides more than $1.3 billion in federal resources annually to help boost Washington’s economy.

SNAP helps 1 in 8 Washingtonians

As Congress begins to debate the Farm Bill, Washingtonians should watch for and reject:

1.    Harmful cuts to SNAP funding. SNAP is an incredibly effective anti-hunger program. Even with a modest average benefit of just $1.33 per person per meal, SNAP has a vital impact in our state, helping hundreds of thousands of our residents put food on the table. Cuts and harmful changes to SNAP that take away people's food have no place in the Farm Bill.

2.    Elimination of state flexibility. Washington state currently uses what’s known as “categorical eligibility” to help SNAP benefits phase out more slowly as a worker’s income increases. Taking away this option would punish people who work more hours or get a better-paying job with the goal of stabilizing their lives before moving away from SNAP.

3.    Increased paperwork and administrative requirements. One proposal under consideration is to undo the connection between Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and SNAP, also known as “Heat and Eat,” which allows Washington and other states to streamline administration of food assistance with utility benefit programs. This would result in costly and unnecessary new paperwork and administrative requirements for families and states.

4.    New, untested work requirements. The proposed Farm Bill may include harsh new work requirements and penalties that would eliminate SNAP as a core support for people who are unemployed or experience irregular work schedules. Research suggests that these types of proposals do little to promote work while pushing more people into deep poverty.

Washington’s members of Congress have historically shared a bipartisan commitment to SNAP as an effective way to help feed struggling Washingtonians and get them back on their feet. Our representatives in Congress must reject cuts to food assistance and focus on policies that help create jobs and boost wages instead of punishing people who are already facing economic hardship.

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President Trump’s budget won’t strengthen the economy. It will harm Washington state

By Misha Werschkul, executive director

President Trump’s 2019 budget does nothing to bolster the economic security of people with middle and low incomes – which is critical to create a thriving economy. Instead, his budget actually threatens the economic security of millions of Washingtonians who rely on federal programs to be able to pay for food on the table, a roof over their head, health care, and other basic needs. Further, it will have profound ripple effects on Washington's local economies. 

While this budget is largely symbolic, since the U.S. Congress just approved a two-year budget deal, these extreme proposals should not be ignored. They are an important signal of the president’s priorities. Many of the specific proposals included in the budget have been introduced before and could be incorporated in future budget proposals or stand-alone legislation this year.  

On the heels of the passage of harmful new federal tax breaks that benefit the wealthy and corporations to the detriment of people with low and middle incomes, President Trump laid out a recipe for increased poverty, homelessness, and inequality. Specifically:

  • He again calls for repealing the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and drastically cutting Medicaid, putting health insurance for millions of Washingtonians at risk.
  • He calls for huge cuts in nutrition, housing, and other basic assistance for millions of Americans below or close to the poverty line, most of whom work for low wages, are elderly or have disabilities, or care for young children. For example, the president cuts nearly 30 percent over 10 years from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, which currently helps put food on the table for more than 900,000 Washingtonians.
  • He proposes deep cuts to the non-defense discretionary budget that funds education, scientific research, job training, and other core government functions. This would result in massive and unsustainable cost shifts to state governments.  

Instead of pursuing the policies proposed by President Trump, federal leaders should take common-sense steps to support families and grow the economy. They can do this by investing in high-quality job training and apprenticeships; increasing access to safe, affordable, dependable child care and care for family members with disabilities; and advancing policies that create jobs and raise wages for working families. 

For more analysis about this harmful budget proposal, see this statement from Bob Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: "Trump budget offers stark vision."


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Three Reasons Why the House GOP Tax Plan is Bad for Washington State

Posted by Kelli Smith at Oct 30, 2017 03:20 PM |
Filed under: Federal Issues

Republican leaders in Washington, D.C. have introduced a harmful plan to give large tax cuts to the wealthiest few while jeopardizing funding for health care, education, and other investments that benefit working families. Take a look at our latest fact sheet to see how the plan would negatively impact Washingtonians with low and middle incomes.

This fact sheet was updated on November 15, 2017.

[Click the image to enlarge.]

 House GOP tax plan 11 15 2017

Trump-GOP’s Tax Plan Will Give Wealthiest 1 Percent of Washingtonians Even More Preferential Treatment

Posted by Kelli Smith at Oct 11, 2017 05:15 PM |
Filed under: Federal Issues
By Kelli Smith, policy analyst, and Andy Nicholas, associate director of fiscal policy

The numbers on the Trump-GOP federal tax plan make one thing abundantly clear: The plan would be an enormous boon to the wealthiest 1 percent of Washingtonians. The numbers also make it clear that it is not a plan built to expand opportunities for working families. The average tax break for those in the top 1 percent would be 1,000 times higher than for those in the bottom fifth of Washington’s households. These tax cuts would drain federal coffers by trillions of dollars over the next decade. This could result in immense cuts to education, health care, infrastructure, child care, and other essential public investments that benefit us all.


In Washington state in particular, people should be especially concerned about the proposal to gut the federal tax code. That’s because our state tax code is already heavily rigged in favor of the wealthiest and most powerful, and it disproportionately harms people of color. People with low and middle incomes already pay up to seven times more in state and local taxes as a share of their income than the top 1 percent. And this takes a heavier toll on many Black, American Indian, and Latino Washingtonians, who make up a disproportionately larger share of those income groups than whites do – because of historically racist policies that have denied them equitable access to opportunity. 

According to analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, 63 percent of federal tax cuts for Washingtonians in the Trump-GOP tax plan would go to the top 1 percent. As the chart below shows, people with low and middle incomes would see a very small tax reduction on average. While people in the lowest-income group in Washington state would see an average tax cut of $100 under the plan, people in the wealthiest 1 percent would receive an average tax cut of more than $100,000. (Of note, the average annual income among the top 1 percent of Washingtonians is about $2 million.)

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avg_tax_cut_by_inc

The enormity of the tax cuts under this plan can’t be rationalized by the top 1 percent's comparatively higher income levels, either. Even when Trump’s proposed tax cuts are calculated as a share of income, the tax cuts at the top would be much higher than those at the bottom. The wealthiest 1 percent would get a tax cut that amounts to a 5.2 percent of their annual income. By contrast, those making the least would see a tax cut that amounts to just 0.6 percent of their incomes. People in the middle don’t fare much better. In fact, every income group in the bottom 95 percent would see an average tax cut that amounts to less than 1 percent of their income. In other words, any lawmakers who are saying this plan is designed to help the middle class are lying. 

[Click to enlarge.]

avg_cut_as_share_of_income

Further, it’s important to note that not all Americans – or Washingtonians – would get a tax cut under this plan. One in six Washingtonians would actually see a tax hike under the plan. Ultimately, many of those in the middle would contribute more while the top 1 percent get a break. That is not sound policy – especially in our state, where working families are already paying more than their fair share while the wealthiest get a special deal. 

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share_with_increase

Adding insult to injury, this plan does not include other sources of revenue to offset the huge tax cuts for millionaires. As a result, these giveaways will create a gaping hole in the federal budget. Without other revenue to fill that hole, investments that strengthen our economy will be at risk. And it’s a safe assumption, given this presidential administration, that those cuts won’t come at the expense of the top 1 percent. Instead, the shortfall will be used as an excuse, either now or in the future, to undermine investments that help low- and middle-income Americans – by cutting programs like health care, education, job training, and the like. 

This tax plan, the latest in a series of federal proposals designed to benefit the very wealthiest, lacks any foresight about the real needs of everyday Americans now and into the future. Washingtonians need a plan that actually helps all families have the opportunity to thrive – not a plan that only serves to exacerbate our upside-down tax code. 

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HIGHLIGHTS

Save the date!

Our Budget Matters 2018 policy conference will take place on November 13 at Seattle Center. john a. powell from the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society is the keynote. Stay tuned for more details. 

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

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