House and Senate budget proposals will be released this week

Published Feb. 21, 2010

The House budget proposal will be released Tuesday morning with the public hearing for it at 6 pm that same day. The Senate budget proposal may also be released on Tuesday, but a hearing for it has not yet been scheduled.  If you want a voice in how the state spends its funding and which taxes are raised for what, now is the time to make your voice heard. As each chamber releases its budget we will update our budget side-by-side with the issues affecting those with developmental disabilities.

SSB 6130, which temporarily suspends the two-thirds vote requirement for tax increases in Initiative Measure No. 960 through July 30, 2011, passed both houses, allowing the legislature to save some programs through increased revenue instead of just eliminating programs. Sources of revenue suggested by the Governor in a tax plan she released last week include “sin” taxes on things such as cigarettes, candy, bottled water, things people choose to buy but are not necessities. Read the Governor’s letter and see the proposed tax changes.

Other revenue suggestions have included raising sales tax across the board and eliminating tax loop-holes. We will watch to see which suggestions the House and Senate propose.

Halfway through session, only a third of bills we are tracking are still alive.

Last week we passed the deadline for bills to make it through their first round of committees in the chamber they originated in. Those that made it through their “House of Origin” now go through the process again in the other chamber. Most will start in the policy committee, then go to the fiscal one if there is money attached to it. The House cut-off is February 23rd for policy committees and February 25th for fiscal ones. The Senate policy committee deadline is February 26th and their fiscal committee deadline is March 1st. March 5th is the last day for bills to get passed in either chamber. The chart of bills we have been monitoring now has one page of bills that are still alive and two pages of bills that died.

This Wednesday is the big Advocacy Day rally!

This Wednesday, February 24th, is the Independent Living Day Rally. Last year we had over 700 people attend the rally. Our goal this year is to get at least 1,000 people there. If you still have your scarf, don’t forget to wear it this week. A limited supply of scarves will be handed out to advocates at the rally so plan to attend this Wednesday. Help legislators recognize our blue scarves signifying the need to fund community services as our choice (currently the only state funded choice is a Residential Habilitation Center or RHC).

What can you do to help?

Please remember to thank legislators for the work they are doing. They are getting a lot of negativity from people who don’t want to have taxes raised. The reality is that 70% of the state budget protected by our constitution or by federal rules, the only real place to cut is in human services. These are long, difficult days for legislators who must make hard decisions and will never make everyone happy. Let your legislators know you appreciate their dedication.

Announcements for the Olympia Insider issues, the Olympia Insider Podcasts and Action Alerts are sent via The Arc of Washington State Action E-list. You can sign up there and the e-list makes it very easy for you to let your legislators know what is most important to you. When bills or budget items need emails or phone calls targeted to your legislator you will receive an email with basic information about the issues and a suggested email you can revise or just send that will go directly to your legislator from you with just the click of a button.

Watch for Action Alerts on the budget this week. Your voice will be important as legislators come down to these final weeks. Legislative session ends on March 11th. You can also use letters, phone calls, email and personal visits to make sure your opinions on the bills or budget items you are most concerned about are heard. This week’s budget proposals and their public hearings will be critical to what services will continue and what programs will be eliminated, your legislators need to hear from you.

Don’t forget to check The Olympia Insider every week for new podcasts, and to subscribe using iTunes or another RSS tool in order to be notified automatically when something new is posted. Remember you can download these to your video-enabled handheld devices! Episode 8: Budget Priorities - Director of Financial Management, Victor Moore sits down with the Olympia Insider to discuss budget priorities and the good financial sense of bringing people with developmental disabilities home to their communities, neighborhoods and schools.

Change is made by those who show up, in person, by phone or by email.

Diana Stadden
Arc of Washington State
Policy and Advocacy Coordinator