New leaders, new budget deficit estimates, and more…

New leaders named to Dept. of Agriculture & Dept. of Health:

Gov. Inslee named Okanogan rancher, chair of Washington’s Salmon Recovery Board, and former Okanogan Co. Commissioner, Bud Hover, as the new director for WA State Dept. of Agriculture (WSDA) this week. The Governor also announced John Wiesman will head WA’s Dept. of Health; he is currently Public Health Director for Clark County Public Health and on the board of the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

Impact of federal sequestration and forecasts for the state budget:

Washington’s State Caseload Forecasting Council estimates a $300 million bigger deficit in the 2013-15 budget than expected. When combined with the federal sequestration’s impact of an estimated $200 million net decrease in state revenues, the overall state deficit is expected to be much bigger than previously imagined. These figures will be finalized next Wednesday, March 20 with the state’s Economic Revenue Forecast (which estimates revenue and expenses for the biennium). Stay tuned for the bad news…

Opportunity today to speak up for a better tax system:

At 8am on Friday, March 15, the House Finance Commission will hold a hearing on House Bill 1971 (sponsor: Rep. Carlyle). This legislation changes the way telecommunications services are taxed, using a uniform sales tax to replace the system currently in place for telephone land lines, wireless cellular communications, and cable/internet, which have a patchwork of different taxes and fees on each sector.

This change generates an estimated $63 million in net new state revenue for the 2013-15 biennium, plus $26.4 million for local governments. Over time, it would add $73 million in net new state revenue in 2015-17, plus $31.9 million for local governments – this bill helps our state and our local communities pay for essential services in a sustainable, equitable way.

The Anti-Hunger & Nutrition Coalition is one of hundreds of organizations that support this kind of streamlining and reforms in our tax system that can help balance our budget more fairly. With this week’s news about our growing deficit – please let your lawmakers know you support House Bill 1971 today!

State Budget Proposals Coming:

The House Republicans released their “fund education first” budget  on Thursday. This budget doesn’t build the future for Washington that people want, and it doesn’t provide sustainable solutions to our budget for the future. We expect the Senate to release their budget proposal after the Economic Forecast is released on March 20. After that, the House proposal will be released.

Funding for WSDA’s Emergency Food Assistance Program – Sign on your organization’s support:

Does your organization support an increase in funding for WSDA’s Emergency Food Assistance Program? Make your support clear and visible – sign on to Washington Food Coalition’s community letter no later than Monday, March 18.

You and your organization should also contact your senator and ask to sign Sen. Hatfield’s letter supporting increased funding for EFAP.

Almost half of all senators support restoring State Food Assistance benefits:

We are thrilled with our senate: 25 senators have signed on to a letter to support restoring benefits for families with State Food Assistance. Can we get to half? Ask your senator to sign on! If your senator is listed, PLEASE send a note or call to thank them: Billig, Chase, Cleveland, Conway, Dammeier, Darneille, Eide, Fain, Fraser, Frockt, Harper, Hasegawa, Hatfield, Hewitt, Hobbs, Keiser, Kline, Kohl-Welles, Litzow, McAuliffe, Murray, Ranker, Rolfes, Schlicher, and Shin.

Rep. Eric Pettigrew is circulating a similar letter of support for SFA among his colleagues in the House – you are encouraged to encourage your Representatives to sign on, too!

Making the case for Farm to School /Small Farms Programs:

“Our central kitchen was shipping about 1,400 or 1,500 meals a day – now we’re shipping about 3,500 meals a day. More people are buying our food because we are providing good quality. We have a reputation for providing good quality, good tasting food. Now we’re buying from 9 local farms consistently.” — Wenatchee School Nutrition Director

Show your legislators how important Farm to School programs are by showcasing this great example from Wenatchee School District – a video they created, “The Lunch Room”, showcases their impressive results (YouTube address: In the House, 34 representatives have signed on their support for saving these programs; in the Senate, 19 Senators have signed on. Send legislators a message of your support for funding these WSDA programs that create economic opportunities for Washington farms and serve healthy, local food to Washington schoolchildren.