Only one thing is clear in Olympia this legislative session: competition for limited dollars will be even tougher than usual, because, thanks to I-695, there is less money to go around.
What does this mean for the Jewish community? Accordingáwo speakers at a forum last weekend sponsored by the Coalition for a Jewish Voice, Jews and Jewish agencies will be impacted in many of the same ways everyone else in the state will be affected. For example, cuts in bus service, including Access busAQ for the elderly and disabled, will make it harder for people to get to the Jewish Community Center, Jewish Family Service and the Kline Galland Home for programs and services.
Depending on what state legislators decide to do during the next 60 days to make up for shortfalls in transportation programs, any state program could be up for grabs. It will be a difficult year to keep track of budget negotiations, especially since some lawmakers are talking about continuing the tax revolution with a property tax cut.
Rep. Laura Ruderman, D-45th District, says she and other legislators are watching their mail, phone calls and e-mails very closely to help them make some difficult decisions in Olympia. “If you look through my mail and telephone calls, everyone wants to cut a different program and preserve a different program,” Ruderman said, advising those present at the Sunday forum to make sure their voices are heard by their own representatives. “There’s going to be cuts some place,” she added.
Ruderman said some of the impact gf I-695 will be settled by the courts, but every government agency is making some preliminary decisions of its own.
Rep. Shay Schual-Berke, D-33rd District, called I-695 a catastrophe. She said the best thing she can do is to be a strong defender for the issues she feels strongly about, with transportation and health care at the top of her list. Schual-Berke, who is a medical doctor, will focus on an improved patient’s bill of rights, which she hopes will improve health care in the state. Washington has had such a consumer protection act for several years, but Schual-Berke says it needs to be improved. She would like to see patients gain an easier and more effective appeal process for solving disagreements with their health insurance company. HB2331 and SB6199 both address this issue and hearings were scheduled on the topic this past week in Olympia.
Josh Gortler, chief executive officer of the Kline Galland Center, said at least three programs that benefit Jdvs are in jeopardy: kosher meals on wheels, senior nutrition programs and transportation. He was especially concerned about Access buses for the disabled and seniors. Caregivers who travel by bus may also find it difficult to get to work.
To demonstrate how government decisions can impact a Jewish agency, Gortler talked about a recent increase in the minimum wage. Although the Kline Galland Home staff all is paid above the minimum, market forces will lead the home to give raises to those who make only 50 cents or a dollar more than the new minimum. This will, in turn, affect the pay of everyone up the ladder at the Kline Galland Home. To make up for increased labor costs, the home will either have to cut services, put a limit on the number of people the home can serve on Medicaid or increase the private rates for those who have the ability to pay. “That’s another taxation without representation,” Gortler said, and then made a joke about charging some people $6,000 more a year for better care and then putting them in a different wing, in reference to the local hospital starting a similar program.
Paola Maranan, public policy and training director, for the Children’s Alliance, said another impact of I-695 will be cuts in nutrition programs for women and infants. She hopes the Legislature will also do some serious assessment of how WorkFirst, the state’s welfare reform program is doing. Her organization has proposed a way to assess people off welfare to see if they are eating, have adequate access to child care, are accessing state services they were promised such as food stamps and if they are genuinely improving their lives.
Sherry Appleton, lobbyist for the Coalition for a Jewish Voice, encouraged concerned members of the community to voice their opinions on these issues.
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Keep tabs on Olympia
Keep tabs on what’s happening in Olympia at the state government web site: http://access.wa.gov. Call to leave a message for your legislator, even if you don’t know who he or she is, by calling 1-800-562-6000.
Contact the governor, 1-360-902-4111 or email@example.com. E-mail your legislator. Their addresses are the first eight letters of their last name, an underline, the first two letters of their first firstname.lastname@example.org. For example, you can reach Laura Ruderman by e-mailing email@example.com.
For more information about the Coalition for a Jewish Voice, e-mail co-presidents Bob Roseth, firstname.lastname@example.org, or Diane Baer, email@example.com, or contact lobbyist Sherry Appleton, firstname.lastname@example.org
The coalition will hold a lobby day in Olympia on Feb. 2. Contact Allan Paulson , email@example.com