February 3, 2011

Senate supplemental budget shows heart, saves interpreter services, appears to slow Morgan Center closure, preserves much of basic health plan

The Senate supplemental budget unveiled Wednesday shows they have heard you and your pleas to save services for citizens.

It’s not perfect – no budget in these times can be. But compared to the proposal from the governor and the supplemental budget passed by the House, the Senate plan shows a lot of heart.
  • It restores funding for the medical interpreter services in DSHS, saving some $12 million in federal matching funds. In doing so, the Senate plan rejects the House plan to outsource those services to call centers in places like Costa Rica and China. And it calls for reform – looking at the arcane brokerage system that skims 45 percent off the top before it ever gets to interpreters and the services they provide.
“Outsourcing is not what we need at this time…,” interpreter Narscisa Hodges told the Senate Ways and Means Committee. “Let’s fix the system for interpreter services to save money.”

“Thank you for restoring funding to this program, protecting patient safety and keeping 2,000 jobs in Washington state,” interpreter Louise Morehead said.
  • The Senate plan appears to slow the fast-track closure of Frances Haddon Morgan Center, but a staffer briefing the committee said residents will still be moved out with the goal “to phase out and eliminate” the center.
  • The Senate plan also saves most of the Basic Health Plan, but enrollment would drop from 54,000 to 40,000 because undocumented adults would be thrown off the plan.
  • It preserves tolling in the Department of Corrections.
  • It attacks the ranks of management in DSHS to the tune of $1.728 million. The Washington Management System and exempt staff have grown in leaps and bounds and this appears to be a good step to getting resources to the front lines – or mitigating cuts to the front lines.
  • Interestingly, the Senate supplemental budget also implements a 3 percent pay cut to non-represented employees starting three months early, on April 1. This would not affect you because you are represented and have a contract.
There are still several problem areas, though:
  • The fast-track closure of Maple Lane School by June 30 is still on the table – despite state consultants who said closure makes no sense.
  • There are reductions in the Secure Community Transitional Facilities for sexual predators.
  • Some of the Disability Lifeline has been saved, but not all.
  • And there are still staff cuts that could translate in harm to public safety and protection of the vulnerable.
While there’s good news to balance the bad, keep in mind – this is not the last word. The Senate and House must work out the differences in the two versions of the supplemental budget (ESHB 1086). So you need to keep calling your legislators at 1-800-562-6000 and urge support for the good things, like interpreter services and saving most of the Basic Health Plan, and opposition to the bad things, like the fast-track closure of Maple Lane School.

One other note for our Yakima Valley School members: The closure issue is not addressed in the supplemental budget, because that would be included in the debate over the 2011-2013 biennial budget. So that’s why you’re not mentioned – but the proposed closure in December 2012 must still be dealt with.

The Senate Ways and Means Committee is set to vote on the supplemental budget Thursday afternoon. It should then go to the full Senate Friday or Monday.

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