Economics Washington State Politics

Senate Budget Weakens Communities & Quality of Life

Part two in a series, “Special Legislative Session: The Big Picture.” The House and Senate budget plans reflect two very different sets of values when it comes to promoting thriving communities. While the House maintains or increases Washington state’s investment in safe neighborhoods, access to a just legal system, and housing support, the Senate drastically reduces funding for these priorities. When the legislature reconvenes next week, lawmakers should make funding for investments that build strong communities a priority.

As the graph below shows, the Senate plans to cut over $350 million from these resources, while the House increases investments by $29 million.

thriving comm graph

 

Proposed cuts by the Senate include:

  • $3 million from legal services that help people with low incomes defend their legal rights in problems involving family safety, shelter, and health care. Women and children have a greater need for legal services than others, and domestic violence survivors have the highest need of all, according to the Office of Civil Legal Aid.
  • $127 million for part-time state employees’ and teachers’ health care plans. The proposal would give workers extra compensation with the expectation that they will enroll in the health benefits exchange created under the federal health care law. But the incentives may not be enough to cover the costs of premiums in the exchange, leaving employees without an affordable option for health coverage. Given the uncertainty of costs in the exchange, this proposal could harm workers and impede our ability to attract the best teachers and people to deliver public services.
  • $30 million  from basic assistance for people who are unable to work due to a disability. These supports include housing assistance, help with transportation, and personal hygiene products like toilet paper and toothpaste.

The Senate also cuts over $23 million from funds dedicated to keeping children and families from becoming homeless. By contrast, the House makes an investment of $7 million towards homelessness prevention.

See table for more detail on House and Senate comparisons.

Thriving comm table

All children and families should have the opportunity to live in communities that are safe, clean, and provide a good quality of life. As  noted earlier in this series, investments in our shared values of education and opportunity, thriving communities, economic security, healthy people and a clean environment are needed to create an economy that works for all Washingtonians.

Over the next week, we will continue our series on “Special Legislative Session: The Big Picture.”

Originally published at Washington State Budget & Policy Center.

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