Dear Friends and Neighbors,
The special session to address the nearly $2 billion budget shortfall adjourned Dec. 14 after adopting budget reductions of just $480 million. It is frustrating that very little was accomplished in 17 days; these non-controversial budget reductions could have taken place in just one day. I did vote for House Bill 2058 to make these reductions, because it is still a small step toward balancing the budget. However, I believe much more should have been done. It appears many legislators were unprepared to have this discussion. Meanwhile, many local governments, schools and people who depend on social services will live in uncertainty until the Legislature truly tackles the task at hand.
We will begin the regular session January 9, and I plan to come prepared with ideas to address the problem. I would appreciate hearing your ideas of how we can responsibly address the shortfall.
I have heard from many of you concerned about how the budget decisions could affect you. I want you to know that my priorities will not waiver.
- Services for those with developmental disabilities – these people are one of the most vulnerable groups and we must come together as a state to support them and their families.
- Cost-based Medicaid reimbursement for critical access hospitals – this issue affects our rural communities but puts pressure on private and large hospitals as well.
- Levy equalization – this allows rural school districts to have the same opportunities for funding as property-rich, urban school districts.
We don't need a budget with just cuts, but a budget with priorities. I am working with colleagues to look at some of the ways we can be more efficient in our budget while still protecting the core priorities of the state.
On another note, I was shocked to read this report on the overmedication of foster children in our country. There is a great deal of burden on our foster families and the system itself. I am currently working with some of my colleagues on legislation to incorporate a family assistance response (often referred to as “differential response”) into our child protective services system. The family assistance response would be used for lower risk situations, and would focus resources on providing a family with assistance to really help them succeed before removing children from a home.
I appreciate hearing from you. It's an honor to serve you.
420 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7836 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000