This week the House and the Senate agreed on a budget proposal to send to Governor Gregoire for her signature!
The special legislative session ended at midnight on Tuesday with lawmakers very close to a budget deal. Shortly after midnight the governor called for an additional special session to run for 1 day. By Wednesday morning lawmakers had a budget agreement.
This budget process was long and challenging. We could not have advocated successfully if it weren’t for each of you responding so quickly to all of our many action alerts. Your phone calls, emails, and direct outreach to lawmakers made a tremendous impact. Thank you for staying the course with us- your efforts have helped to ensure countless Washington families will be able to access nutrition and hunger relief programs.
Our 2012 legislative priorities, State Food Assistance, Farmers Market Nutrition Program for WIC and Seniors, School Meals, and the Emergency Food Assistance Program are all preserved in the budget. Part of how this was possible is minor success in our other priority: new revenue to support the safety net and other critical state services. The Legislature will be ending tax loopholes for out-of-state banks and raise an estimated $12 million from a new tax on roll your own cigarette machines.
State Food Assistance is saved! Though slated for elimination in the last two years, this program that provides food stamps to legal, documented immigrants who are otherwise ineligible for federal food key members in leadership positions were fantastic advocates on this issue and there was a tremendous media push to highlight the impact and importance of this program. Though the program was not eliminated, there will be a 50% cut in in benefit levels for SFA clients. This proposal was made when the budget was written during the 2011 session, and the recent ruling by the federal court now allows that cut to take effect. It is not clear yet when DSHS will implement this change in benefit levels and how they will communicate this change to clients and staff, but we are monitoring this. At the same time, the campaign for restoring full benefits starts NOW.
Farmers Market Nutrition Programs for WIC and Seniors has been preserved, though also at a significantly reduced funding level than in the past. The state budget provides sufficient funds to draw down the federal funds for FMNP and provide cohesive staffing for the program. With reduced state funding, it’s now expected to be a 40% decrease in funds for WIC FMNP this summer.
In our Coalition’s other priorities, there were no changes at all to funding for child nutrition programs at OSPI nor to EFAP funding for food banks through WSDA.
Legislators came to a compromise on a major sticking point—ending pensions for early retiring state employees by agreeing on a 50% cut in pension benefits for those who retire at age 55. Pension benefits for public workers have already suffered from cuts in the past, but the latest cut will only apply to those employees who start work after May 2013. An additional $238 million was saved from the debt by approving an accounting maneuver that allows the state to hold on to some local and municipal sales taxes a little longer before returning them to local governments.
Federal update and ACTION ALERT: Over the past few weeks we’ve told you about a nation-wide advocacy effort to support SNAP (food stamps) in the Farm Bill reauthorization. The Farm Bill funds and governs SNAP and is reauthorized every 5 years.
Advocates in Washington were specifically asked to circulate a sign-on letter to preserve SNAP’s integrity and effectiveness directed to Washington State’s critical Congressional delegation. Over 60 Washington organizations signed on, and the letter will be delivered to Congress members while they are in recess in their districts this week and next. Already the letter was delivered to Sen. Patty Murray’s office, Rep. Dave Reichert, and today to Rep. Jim McDermott.
Action: If you have not yet signed-on to this letter – please sign-on your organization today.
- This Friday April 13th, FRAC will hold a telephone conference call about the Farm Bill from 11am-12pm (1-866-339-6642 code *9626624*)
- “Farm Bill 101” educational workshop that will be happening this weekend at the Ballard Branch Library (5614 22nd Avenue NW Seattle, WA 98107) in their large meeting room on Sunday, April 15th, from 2:00-4:00
- Puget Regional Food Policy Council Meeting Friday April 13th, 10:00am-noon PSRC Conference Room at 1011 Western Avenue, Suite 500, Seattle, WA. The agenda packet is available at http://psrc.org/about/
- WithinReach Annual Luncheon: April 25th
- Northwest Harvest Annual Meeting: June 1st
Upcoming AHNC General Meetings
|Upcoming General Meeting||Member Host|