December 2, 2011

Special Session Week 1 - Recap

As move into more action at the Capitol and, more importantly, back home in legislative districts, it’s a good time to sum up some of the testimony given at budget hearings and rallies this week.

Senate Ways and Means Committee, 11/28/11

Federation Executive Director Greg Director joined more than 160 other speakers in calling for revenue and a stop to cuts.

“In 18 years of doing this work, I don’t think I’ve every seen a hearing like this,” Devereux said. “I suspect at the end of the day, all 162 people who have testified will be saying to you that we need revenue. I don’t think I’ve every seen that unanimity in anything up here before.

“Our message…is very simple. We need to stop the cuts. We do need to raise the revenue.”

All week long, Federation members have been passing out a compilation of tax giveaways that could be closed to save public safety, public services and higher education. This is just one option in the push for new revenue to stop further drastic cuts.

“Our members understand the financial straits we’re in,” Devereux added. “They see the devastation every day in the services they’re trying to provide.

“Closing the Frances Haddon Morgan Center last year saved no money. But one of those residents has since died in the community. And that didn’t happen in the previous 20 years.

“Closing Maple Lane didn’t save money, but it’s resulted in a lot of confusion in our juvenile rehab system.

Passing 5931 (the bill creating the Department of Enterprise Services and Consolidated Technology Services agency) last year saved no money, but it took away collective bargaining rights for state employees and left them at the whims of some of their bosses.

“Enough is enough.

“The Occupy movement and the backlash against banks and corporations indicate the public is looking for a better way to protect our communities than an all-cuts budget.

“Closing Yakima Valley School, Rainier State School, additional mental health beds, eliminating Medicaid interpreters, seeking further takeaways from state employees who’ve already had furloughs, wage cuts, health cuts – those aren’t the answers.

“State workers and many other groups have already taken their fair share. It is time – if 162 people can come before you and say raise revenue, it’s time for all the legislators of all parties to raise revenue.”

Public Safety Matters, 11/30/11

    At the rally to expose the excesses of the wealthiest 1 percent, Ginger Richardson, president of King County State Corrections Local 308, called the all-cuts budget “a threat to public safety in so many ways.”

    The proposed budget would slash supervision of dangerous offenders released from prison in the community.

    “You may not know this, but Community Corrections officers make a difference in your lives,” Richardson told the rally crowd. “They’re in your communities. And they’re your neighbors.

    “Without me and my other professionals keeping an eye on them, they are out there waiting to do more bad things and create more victims.”

Higher Education cuts pricing our kids out of an education, 11/30/11

    Pam Carl, the Federation’s Volunteer Member Organizing coordinator whose daughter attends a community college, told the Senate Ways and Means Committee Nov. 30 that it’s cheaper for Washington students to go out of state.

    She said her research showed that the in-state tuition at Washington State University is $9,886 a year, while the out-of-state tuition at Oregon State University is more than $2,000 less, at $7,756 a year.

    “As a taxpayer and a resident of this state, I find it appalling,” Carl said.

    The proposed budget slashes state funding for state colleges and universities from 13 percent to 17 percent.

    “The $160 million-plus in cuts in the governor’s proposed supplemental budget robs the future of our children,” Carl said. “We are in danger of falling to the bottom of the list of states when it comes to the quality of our higher education system.”

Senate Ways and Means Committee, 12/1/11

    At the Senate budget hearing on human services programs, Federation Lobbyist Matt Zuvich took time to urge saving the four wards at Western State Hospital and the medical interpreters program, plus two programs that haven’t always been in the spotlight this week.

    On the proposed closure of Rainier School in Buckley:

“It would be taking away one of four or five people in the whole world that know how to communicate with a vulnerable adult that doesn’t communicate normally,” Zuvich said. “Displacing and closing that facility would put them into the community and the people that have worked with them all their lives would not necessarily go with them.”

    On the cuts to Juvenile Parole:

“Those kids that they now serve and hook up with critical services that help prevent them from going on into a lot more severe life of criminality won’t get those services and that we would end up paying for them later.”

Zuvich summed up the week well: It’s the revenue, folks:

“I think it’s time to face facts,” he said. “We don’t have a budget problem, we have a revenue problem. Those who would say that we can fix this problem with all cuts need to talk to my members. And we’ll be here and we’ll find you and all you have to do is let us in the door and we’ll tell you just how bad it is right now.”

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