Senate budget released

Revenue:

We all need to talk to our Senators about revenue. We stand in strong support for the need to find revenue to help Washington pay for existing need for services and meet its duty of improving basic education under the McCleary decision. We can’t look at education or services in isolation-hungry kids in crisis can’t learn.

The Legislature, including the Senate, should keep all revenue options on the table, but we believe in the following principles:

  •  Find new sources of revenue because our existing system is primarily based on the retail sales tax at local establishments. It’s regressive and has diminishing returns each year – it’s not a solution for the Washington of today or tomorrow.
  • Close wasteful and unnecessary tax loopholes and exemptions. Gov. Inslee’s proposal starts us on the right path to help ensure improvements to basic education while investing in critical supports to help low-income families. The Senate maintains tax exemptions for oil companies, pharmaceutical makers and luxury vehicle owners – the Governor didn’t.
  • Reform our tax code and improve tax fairness for low and moderate income Washingtonians who are currently paying a disproportionately high amount of their incomes in taxes, yet are losing out on more and more of the critical state supports that they need to meet basic needs. Gov. Inslee’s budget can pay for child care for working families, smaller class sizes in schools, and lifeline services for low-income kids and homeless people. The Senate budget can’t pay for these things because it doesn’t fix our tax code.

State Food Assistance:

The Senate budgets $9.4 million for State Food Assistance – this increases the food stamp benefit level from its current 50% of federal (SNAP) benefits to 75% of federal benefit levels. We are glad to see that the strong showing by legislators signing onto our letter of support for SFA encouraged the Senate to reinvest in this critical program.

Yet a majority of Senators wanted full restoration, and this budget continues to fall short for the thousands of kids, parents and elders that need a full plate every day – not ¾ of a plate.

 
Emergency Food Assistance Program:

The Senate budget funds EFAP at $5.3 million per year – no increase in funding. We used to say that cuts to SFA mean that more people will be at the food bank’s door, but those families are already customers.

Food stamps are – and should remain – our first line of defense against hunger. But as long as benefits still fall short for an adequate food budget, families have to rely on both food stamps and food banks. To really fight hunger, we need to strengthen both systems of support.

Farm to School / Small Farms Programs:

The Senate budget finally reflects that these programs are important to Washington and invests state general funds back into the programs – at $250,000 for the biennium.

Yet the proposed budget for both these programs at $250,000 over the next 2 years is not sufficient. It’s estimated that this would reduce the previous staffing of 4.5 staff for both programs to only 1 staff member for both.

Combined, WSDA’s two programs have had a major impact on ensuring a healthy, vibrant local agriculture economy and healthy schoolkids by pairing local growers with local buyers, including schools. We applaud the effort by the Senate to put some state funds back into these critical programs – but they can fulfill both their mission and their promise better if funded at the level advocates and more than 60 legislators have asked for: $500,000 for the biennium.

School Meal Programs and Farmers Market Nutrition Program for WIC & Seniors

No cuts

Other safety net programs:

The investments in our food system will be undermined by cuts to critical support services. Slashing programs for low-income families like TANF/WorkFirst and Disability Lifeline and Working Connections mean less income to buy food. Hunger will continue to rise and the need for food assistance programs will deepen. The Senate needs to make a stronger stand to reform taxes and generate revenue to pay for the most basic needs.

Without comprehensive change to our tax system, we’re pitting one part of the safety net against other critical public services.