March 21, 2017
The Facts You Need On The Senate Republican Budget
The Senate Republicans are underfunding nearly every major priority in our state budget.
Gov. Inslee proposed $1.5 billion more than the Republicans did for K-12 education, the state’s paramount duty. And Inslee proposed investing $220 million in mental health care and fixing Western State Hospital in the next two years, while the Republicans proposed just $95 million. But beyond their failure to fund the state’s top priorities, the Republican budget has a lot of BIG problems…
The Senate GOP budget counts on a big new statewide property tax increase - $5.5 billion dollars in total across the state or $1.55 per $1000 of assessed property value, which would be the largest property tax increase in state history.
This new property tax would be paid for by middle class and working families instead of asking the wealthiest 1% and the huge corporations in Washington to pay their fair share. Property taxes are particularly harsh on seniors living on fixed incomes, who may soon be paying for huge increases in health care costs if Trump’s health care bill is signed into law. NO taxes that specifically impact the wealthiest 1% are included in their budget package.
It is backwards and unfair to put the entire tax burden on middle class and working families while letting the super-rich duck their fair share of taxes once again. Washington already has the most unfair tax system in the country and our focus should be on a fairer system that more responsibly funds education.
The cruelest part of the GOP Senate Republican budget are the cuts it makes that directly impact children and the vulnerable. Education, early learning, human services, and more are all cut.
We know that education is crucial to economic opportunity. But Republicans would close to door to higher education for many by suspending financial aid programs, cutting financial aid for needy students by $26 million. And they propose to reduce tuition waivers that help make college cheaper for veterans and the spouses, children, and dependents of police, firefighters, and military members killed in service.
The Republicans would overturn the will of the voters and repeal I-732, the initiative guaranteeing cost-of-living raises for teachers. Despite legislators getting an 11% raise in the last budget, the Republicans want to repeal raises for teachers! Their budget also ends bonuses for teachers with National Board Certification, which is proven to help teachers do a better job in the classroom and help students succeed.
Children would also fall victim to cuts proposed by the Senate Republicans to early learning and childcare programs. The Working Connections Child Care program would be cut by $93 million over four years, leaving countless needy families without child care or early learning opportunities for their children – all the worse when we know that early learning is particularly important for young people coming from households in poverty or homelessness.
The Senate Republican plan would even completely eliminate state support for early learning for three year olds. Currently, the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program provides high quality preschool for three and four year olds – Republicans propose to save $54 million by completely cutting three year olds out from the program. This is a harsh cut for our youngest Washingtonians.
But impacts on the vulnerable and homeless would be no less. The Republicans propose to end the Housing & Essential Needs program, cutting by $60 million this program to help provide housing for low-income adults physically or mentally incapable of working. They would cut Temporary Assistance for Needy Families by $33 million, limiting the number of poor families that can get temporary assistance when they’re on hard times.
The Republicans propose to permanently end one of our state’s best job creation programs – the Public Works Assistance Account. The Public Works fund provides low interest rate loans for local governments to make investments in their infrastructure like sewers, electrical systems, clean water, and other basic and essential utilities. This creates jobs working on these projects while also improving infrastructure and reducing costs for families and businesses in these communities, particularly in smaller and rural cities and counties that might not be able to afford these investments without the assistance of the Public Works fund.
They also refuse to fund the contracts negotiated with our state employees – the hard working people that make our state work. This irresponsible scheme would punish state employees, reject contracts negotiated in good faith, and hurt our state’s ability to compete for the best employees to work for us. This would be particularly important for some extremely important and hard-to-fill jobs, like nurses at psychiatric facilities, workplace safety inspectors, social service workers, and more. Nurses at Western State Hospital have a tough enough job, and if we want to get people the health care they need, the hospital needs sufficient staff who are fairly compensated. Republicans are attacking labor and working people in our state by rejecting these contracts.
Along with rejecting contracts for state employees, they’re also jacking up health care costs for home health care workers who provide care for the long term disabled. Their plan would force these workers, most of whom don’t make much money doing an important job caring for seniors and the disabled, to pay higher premiums and out-of-pocket co-pay costs at the same time as their deductibles increase go up.
They’d also push costs for pensions for law enforcement and firefighters who protected our community for years onto cities and local governments. Our police and firefighters have worked to keep us safe, and it’s wrong for the state to break the promises made to these people once they have retired. And by forcing the costs onto local governments, it’ll force cuts or tax increases at the local level because the Republicans are too irresponsible to budget properly at the state level.
And, the Republicans propose to drain the state’s rainy day fund by $700 million to make one-time payments – fiscal irresponsibility that will hurt the state the next time that there’s an economic downturn.