This Washington

Two Reactions To Dems' Budget Proposal, Both Bad

By Josh Feit April 6, 2011

State house ways and means chair, Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48, Medina), is getting hit from both sides.

From the left: The local  Service Employees International Unions have organized a protest at the state capitol for tomorrow (they expect hundreds). And the Washington State Labor Council has organized a protest for Friday—expecting thousands. According to a press release from the Secretary of State's office:
"Up to 50 busloads of participants are expected, according to General Administration’s Visitor Services. The rally is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is sponsored by the Washington State Labor Council.

Parking on campus will be affected. Visitors are advised to use alternate parking and transportation options, such Intercity Transit’s Dash shuttle."

And from the right: Hunter's supposed budget committee partner, ranking Republican Rep. Gary Alexander (R-20, Olympia), is offering an alternative budget today. Given what Alexander has told PubliCola in the past, I expect he'll propose scaling back the education cuts by killing the Basic Health Plan.

More details as soon as we've had a chance to go over Alexander's proposal, but at a press conference this morning, Alexander said: "We spend over half a billion dollars less in our budget than the Democrats do." And, referring to Hunter's surprise proposal to lease that Washington State Liquor Board's distribution center out to a private business, he said: "We do not use one -time monies that come from questionable revenue sources—such as the $300 million dollar sale or lease [of the distribution center], which does not have a good return for the taxpayers."

[pullquote]The Republican budget makes even deeper cuts to social services and doesn't use a $300 million boost from privatizing the state's liquor distribution system that's included in Hunter's proposal.[/pullquote]

Saying he wants a "sustainable, responsible, and accountable budget," he added that he wasn't waiting for a "pot of gold in 2014 from the federal government."

In protest, Alexander did not sign the supplemental budget earlier this session. (His GOP counterpart in the senate, Sen. Joseph Zarelli (R-18, Ridgefield), did.)

UPDATED: Alexander's alternative proposal is now available. While his proposal shares major provisions with Hunter's—like saving $1.2 billion by suspending class-size reduction initiatives I-728 and I-732—the Republican budget makes even deeper cuts to social services and doesn't use a $300 million boost from privatizing the state's liquor distribution system that's included in Hunter's proposal.

Here's how the Alexander alternative bridges the shortfall:

* $230 million from eliminating the Basic Health Plan
* $353 million form eliminating the Disability Lifeline
* $100 million by reducing payments (reverting to older methodology) to Federally Qualified and Rural Health Centers
* $62 million from eliminating the state-only food assistance program
* $97 million by reducing personal care hours
* $52 million from eliminating the Children's Health Program
* $482 million through reduced funding to higher education

According to the budget summary, eliminating the Disability Lifeline will have the following effect:

Coverage for medical care services provided to approximately 18,500 Disability Lifeline Unemployable clients and 4,200 individuals receiving chemical dependency treatment under the Drug Addiction Treatment and Support Act program is eliminated.

In addition, the BHP covers 65,000 patients and the Children's Health Program covers 25,000 patients.

 
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