YAKIMA, Wash. - Short-term budget cuts will cause long-term damage to
Washington's most vulnerable citizens, according to a coalition of
advocates for an overhaul of the state revenue system. They're holding
five news conferences today across the state to detail their concerns
about potential cuts to senior services, and urge the legislature to
find other ways to fund the programs for health care, meals,
transportation and in-home care.
Lori Brown, director of the Area Agency on Aging for the Yakima region, says she has read some heart-wrenching letters from seniors asking that their programs be spared.
"'I receive $18 in food stamps and I need this meal.' Others have
talked about their congregate meal site, which would be closed if these
cuts move forward; that the only fellowship they have is when they
share a meal with other seniors."
Ingrid McDonald, advocacy director for AARP Washington,
says these programs have allowed the state to decrease its nursing home
population from 18,000 to 10,000, at a huge cost savings. It is
progress she says will disappear if lawmakers look at numbers, instead
"It's about Grandma. It's about my neighbor's aunt who lives with her.
It's about specific people in our communities who are frail and
vulnerable, but getting by and maintaining a quality of life because of
some assistance they're getting through the state."
The coalition, called Rebuilding Our Economic Future, is asking
lawmakers and the governor to consider all revenue-generating options
this session, including closing tax exemptions and raising some types
of taxes, to prevent another $2.6 billion in budget cuts this year.
Those who disagree say the budget deficit should be a signal to spend
less, now and in the future.