During these sunny summer days, next year’s legislative session may seem far off. But actually, our work to protect kids through the 2011 legislative session starts now.
With a looming gap of $3 billion between Washington’s expected revenue and the needs of the state, Governor Gregoire has launched a planning process for the 2011-2013 budget.
She has asked every state department to answer seven questions about each spending item and make a recommendation for how to cut spending. Question number one: “Is this an essential service?”
The Children’s Alliance wants to make sure that Washington’s values are not lost in the budget planning process. And we’re not alone. Children’s Alliance executive director, Paola Maranan, and Ingrid McDonald, advocacy director for AARP Washington, teamed up in this Seattle Times op-ed to send lawmakers a message: Keep Washington’s values at the core of the budget debate.
People who attended last Tuesday’s budget hearing in Tacoma echoed this message. The first of four statewide budget hearings scheduled by Governor Gregoire drew 450 people. Lauren Platt, Children’s Alliance early learning advocacy coordinator, gave this report from the standing room only event:
“The Governor’s staff kicked off the forum by presenting on different budget areas, including education and health care. A public commenting section followed. Throughout the hearing, early learning and accessible child care both came up as worthy investments for the state.
Jim Crawford, senior budget assistant at the Office of Financial Management, spoke to the importance of the state’s investment in pre-k for low-income 3- and 4-year olds. He noted that the evidence is clear; early investment in our youngest learners is a smart investment, and one that the state is very proud of. However, he also pointed out that we have a ways to go before the need for affordable pre-k, such as the state-funded Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program, is fully met.
The longest and loudest applause of the night came after a child care provider spoke about the importance of state-supported child care to providers, who are small business owners, and to parents, who need safe and affordable child care to be able to work. The provider noted that while the state is in a dire economic situation, cutting funding for child care subsidies would begin “a vicious cycle that we cannot start.”
The overall message from the hearing was clear: Washingtonians want new revenue to support our communities and to protect our ideals as a state. As the first testifier put it, “the government is us - it’s a way of funding our community.”
The final budget hearing takes place in Spokane on Thursday, July 29th from 5pm-7pm. If you can’t make it in person, send a message to our Kids are Essential Storybook. We’ll deliver the book of stories in person at the Spokane hearing. Parents, caregivers and child advocates from across the state are sending in messages for us to deliver to the Governor and her staff answering this question: “What is essential for kids and families?” Here are a few of the stories we've received:
Kathy M. from Klickitat County writes:
“Working Connections Childcare is essential. Already struggling families in Washington State would be devastated if this program were cut. Most parents I provide licensed childcare for (80%) are on this program. These are hard working parents trying their best to make ends meet in our state. Many of them have to already make the choice between things like paying their power bill or buying groceries.”
Jennifer U. from King County writes:
“My son passed away last year. He left behind a 24 year old wife and two children aged 1 year and 3 years. Fortunately, his work in the construction trade as a Union carpenter left a death benefit about equal to a single parent’s income, but unfortunately it is not low enough for his wife to receive child care benefits and it is not high enough for her to pay for these things on her own. If it wasn't for the Children's Health coverage they are able to get through the state my 2 grandchildren would have no medical coverage. Right now their mother has no way to go to work, as she can not afford child care on her social security income. Sometimes the hardest place to be is in the gray area of services.”
These messages are powerful. Add your message, and help keep kids at the center of the budget debate.
- Maria Manza