Those who advocate for the needy are shocked and dismayed (to put it mildly) Gov. Chris Gregoire has targeted for elimination of programs that provide health care to those with low incomes.
Faced with a $4 billion-plus shortfall in revenue (tax collections), the governor slashed or eliminated many social service programs, including the Basic Health Plan that provides subsidized insurance for the working poor. The governor's budget also calls for eliminating programs that provide health care and dental care to poor adults, cash grants and health care for unemployable disabled people and health care for 27,000 children who cannot prove their citizenship.
Advocates for the needy are wondering out loud (to a Seattle Times reporter) whether voters really understood they were putting these social programs in jeopardy when they overturned the tax on candy, pop and bottled water that would have generated $520 million over two years. Some would like to see a ballot measure giving voters another chance to vote on the candy-pop tax in an effort to avert cutting the health-care programs.
"The reality is that this budget was balanced on the back of health care for the poorest people," said Rebecca Kavoussi, an assistant vice president of the Community Health Network of Washington, which provides medical care to the poor and underinsured. "I wish the governor had not closed the door to the idea of asking people if they're sure they want to do this."
Holding an election for this type of decision is unnecessary. We elect the governor and legislators to make difficult choices. If we don't like their decisions then we can let them know it at the next election.
If this were put to a vote, we aren't sure the result would be any different. The vote to overturn the candy-pop tax was a stand on principle rather than dollars.
The no-new-taxes mantra has taken hold in the midst of the Great Recession and many voters were simply annoyed that even a modest tax was imposed. We, by the way, opposed repeal of the candy-pop tax because we feared the loss of the revenue would force really deep budget cuts.
The tax was overturned in a landslide with over 60 percent of the vote.
That doesn't make voters hard-hearted, it's simply a result of the current political and economic climate. People are short on money and even shorter on patience when it comes to politicians.
Gregoire and other state leaders are trying to craft a state budget that meets the needs of the public based on the amount of money available.
Will these proposed cuts make everyone happy? Not a chance.
Nevertheless, Gregoire and lawmakers need to move forward. The candy-pop tax issue has been settled. Now is the time to make the best of the tax revenue that is being collected and provide the best services and programs with available cash.