Dear Friends and Neighbors,
I want to thank all of you who attended Rep. Terry Nealey's and my town hall meetings in Pasco, Dayton and Walla Walla this past weekend. In total, we had 80-90 people that attended. We discussed everything from teacher evaluations to reducing regulations on businesses and health care to balancing the budget. It was great to hear from our constituents about these issues and more.
Rules for in-home day care providers
There have been many concerns statewide about the expansion of agency rules (known as WACs) by the Department of Early Learning (DEL). These WACs will be in effect on March 31. Recently I sat down with several members of the House, Betty Hyde, Director of the DEL, and others with the agency. I conveyed to them the confusion and fear from day care providers, especially in-home providers, about the department issuing fines and violations that could close their doors. I asked DEL officials to direct their inspectors and other management to give providers a chance to comply with the new rules and help them fully understand what they need to do to be in compliance with the new rules. I've always believed government should work with employers, not against them for everyone to be successful.
Supplemental operating budgets released
In my last e-mail, I explained a proposal I support to Fund Education First. To follow up on that, House Republicans released the first supplemental operating budget this year on Feb. 17 following the state's revenue forecast. I am proud to support this proposal, which protects the most vulnerable, fully funds levy equalization, and prioritizes public safety measures – all without raising the sales tax. The House Democrats released their proposal Feb. 21. I am disappointed that much of their proposal continues to kick the can down the road. The most egregious component is that they propose to delay payments to school districts into the next biennium in order to “save” $405 million, including a $75 million shift in levy equalization payments. You can see the difference between how House Republicans and House Democrats propose to balance the budget with these charts (click on the images to see them larger):
As the ranking Republican on the House Early Learning and Human Services Committee, my greatest concern is caring for our most vulnerable citizens: seniors, people with developmental disabilities, mental health patients and children in low-income families. The House Republicans' proposal prioritizes these groups and budgets $45 million more for these folks than the House Democrats' budget proposal. Specifically, our proposal would:
- Fully fund reimbursement rates for Critical Access Hospitals (House Democrats' proposal reduces reimbursement for rural CAHs by 10 percent) and Harborview Medical Center;
- Maintain funding for supported employment, supported living, eligibility for personal care services, and agency provider reimbursement rates for people with developmental disabilities (House Democrats' proposal would eliminate state-only employment services, reduces community residential service rates and family services and assumes passage of a public utility tax);
- Fund 35 out-of-home community placements for people with developmental disabilities;
- Maintain funding for eligibility of personal care services, Adult Day Health (House Democrats' proposal would reduce this by 20 percent), Area Agencies on Aging, and nursing home reimbursement rates (House Democrats' proposal would reduce rates by 12 percent for lowest acuity groups); and
- Maintain current caseload ratios for Child Protective Service workers and family reconciliation services.
Our budget proposal would not:
- Increase or “sweep” the Nursing Home Safety Net Assessment (House Democrats' proposal increases assessments from $11/day to $19/day);
- Increase adult family home license fees (House Democrats' proposal increases this from $175/bed to $370/bed); or
- Close the Rainier School.
House Republicans have shown the state we can balance the budget responsibly, by protecting our most vulnerable citizens without a sales tax increase.
You can read more detailed information about the budget proposals here. I would appreciate hearing what you think about these proposals. We have just two weeks remaining in the regular 60-day session, but this is plenty of time to pass the budget and complete on time. There is no reason for us to hold a special session, especially since we were just here in December for a special session.
It's an honor to serve you. Please feel free to contact my office anytime.
420 John L. O'Brien Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7836 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000