Morning Fizz

Speaking of Budget Woes

By Morning Fizz October 27, 2011

Caffeinated news & gossip. Your daily Morning Fizz.

1. In advance of the November 28 special session in Olympia, Gov. Chris Gregoire is releasing her budget "road map" this morning—her first pass at finding $2 billion in savings to deal with the latest revenue shortfall. (The legislature cut $4.6 billion last session.)

Fizz hears she'll announce she's cutting the 4th and 9th grades; closing WSU; eliminating the Department of Health and Human Services, and releasing 7,400 criminals from state prison. We're kidding—though she hasn't been friendly to the alternative idea of closing corporate loopholes—and interest groups are already anticipating the worst.

A coalition of children's health care advocates, low-income housing advocates, hospital advocates, and unions called the Our Economic Future Coalition, released a statement this morning calling on the legislature to close tax loopholes and raise revenue rather than cutting critical services.

“We are the 99 percent,” Anne Martens, spokesperson for the coalition, said in a preemptive statement. “Are tax breaks for big banks more important than our children’s future?

“Cutting programs like Working Connections forces parents to give up their jobs and pushes them to rely even more on public programs," said Service Employees International Union 925 member Kathy Yasi. "It’s backwards.”

Meanwhile, a coalition of elder care advocates including AARP Washington released this statement last night:
Under the proposed cuts, tens of thousands of seniors will suddenly lose access to long-term care services and prescription drug coverage.

“Over the last three years the state has been fraying the safety net for vulnerable seniors, by reducing hours of care, cutting funding, and limiting services,” said Ingrid McDonald, Advocacy Director for AARP Washington. “Now the safety net for our most vulnerable is being ripped to shreds. Let’s be clear: under this proposal tens of thousands of seniors will lose care. Many will see their health decline, face institutionalization, or even die.”

2. Speaking of budget woes, advocates for public libraries, community centers, health care centers, and food programs (along with a few folks who apparently came in from the Occupy Seattle protest outside to yell about "corruption" and "greed" at the city council) lined up en masse at last night's Seattle City Council budget hearing to ask the council to hold the line on their programs.

Library advocates---who've faced cuts in recent years so steep that some library branches are only open seven hours a day, five days a week---thanked council members for not cutting hours this year, and implored them not to make additional cuts in the future. "The irony that we face right now is that the hours are down and the usage is up," said Pat Walker, a board member with the Seattle Public Library Foundation, who noted that "about 20 percent of the households use the computers at the library as their sole source of [Internet] access."

Rick Wyman, a board member for the Country Doctor Community Clinic, asked the council to add $377,000 to the city's budget to help preserve service at the clinic, which has seen an increase in uninsured patients from 54 to 67 percent between December 2010 and June 2011. "We're experiencing the double edged sword of increased demand and decreased revenue," Wyman said.[pullquote]Republican King County Council member Reagan Dunn has shied away from an opportunity to debate his Democratic rival in the state attorney general race. [/pullquote]

Advocates for community centers begged council members not to reduce their hours, and asked them to preserve funding proposed by Mayor McGinn to fix roofs on six community center buildings; South Park Community Center advocates, in particular, noted that their roof has already caved in once.

And supporters of Solid Ground's Lettuce Link program asked the council to restore funding for its seed-distribution initiative, a $17,000 program that provides organic seeds to low-income, immigrant, and refugee households.

3. Republican King County Council member Reagan Dunn has shied away from an opportunity to debate his Democratic rival in the state attorney general race.

Last week, Andrew Prazuch, the Executive Director of the King County Bar Association, sent an email to Dunn and Democratic King County Council member Bob Ferguson, inviting the pair to debate at the upcoming KCBA Bench-Bar Conference at Seattle University. (The Bench-Bar Conference is an annual Veterans Day event where lawyers and judges get together for panel discussions and continuing legal education.)
The program begins at 8:45am and goes until 2:00pm. I am very willing to accommodate your schedules and move other panels around so as not to conflict with other commitments you have on Veterans Day. ...I'm envisioning something short of a formal debate, more like a forum where you might both make some opening remarks and then have our KCBA president Joe Bringman ask questions of each of you from himself and the audience.

Ferguson emailed back immediately saying  he was in. Dunn, evidently waiting a week to respond and ignoring Ferguson when Ferguson casually asked him about it when they saw each other at Monday's council meeting, turned down the offer.

4.  More Gates Foundation money keeps going to Seattle School Board incumbents. According to the latest campaign finance reports, Jeffrey and Patricia Raikes (he's the Chief Executive Officer of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and fomer president of Microsoft's Business Division), gave $5,000 to Sherry Carr, Peter Maeir, and Steve Sundquist in the last week.

The Gates Foundation is a major funder of the education reform movement associated with hot button issues advocated by Obama's secretary of education Arne Duncan such as charter schools and tying teacher evaluations to student test scores. Ed reform supporters—many of whom live on Eastside—are backing this year's embattled Seattle School Board incumbents.
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