Update on Olympia & Congress Action Alert

Regular session ending – but our advocacy doesn’t:

This Sunday marks the end of the Legislature’s regular session, but they are a long way off from ending their work. This is a “long” session (105 days) when lawmakers write the budget for the next 2 years, but the big differences between the Senate’s budget proposal and the House proposal mean the Governor will have to call a special session to finish the work. Sometimes that happens right away (usually when negotiations are close to completion). More likely this year is most legislators will go home this weekend, and the finance and budget committee members will keep working. A special session would begin when the House and Senate are closer to agreement.

All this means our job isn’t done: we need to keep in touch with those budget writers to make sure they’re still fighting for our priorities to feed hungry people. They need robust tax reform and new revenue to comply with the Supreme Court’sMcCleary ruling for more funding for education AND for the programs that all Washingtonians need to survive and thrive.

In the final negotiations, AHNC is pushing for: funding at least the Senate’s proposal of 75% benefit levels for State Food Assistance; funding for WSDA’s Farm to School/Small Farms Programs; added funding for Emergency Food Assistance Program; and, new revenue and tax reforms to make our budget process work better – now and in the future.

Revenue Update:

This week the House Finance Committee passed a revenue bill (substitute HB 2038) that was a reduction from the original proposal in the House budget – it raises about $900 million in new revenue, down from almost $1.3 billion. The House Committee also passed Senate Bill 5843, which creates a process for review and/or expiration dates for tax exemptions or preferences. In plain terms: just as the Legislature regularly reviews its spending (via annual budgeting), it will also regularly review each of its tax exemptions (at least every 10 years), so our tax code keeps up with current times.

Yesterday, advocates delivered a strong message to legislators: “Make our communities whole again” – because our current budget and tax system is like an apple with a hole through it. Thanks to the broad coalition who is making our message clear and unmistakable to lawmakers!

Media Update:

We will keep you posted as there are opportunities to take action on the budget in the coming weeks. In the past week, kudos to our advocates – a PHENOMENAL job with the media to broadcast our priorities:

From the editorial board of The Olympian (April 21):

It’s Not Too Late for Lawmakers to Address Hunger

 Sen. Andy Billig wrote an op-ed in the Spokesman-Review (April 20):
Children Need a Holistic Plan

Rep. Eric Pettigrew wrote an op-ed in the Seattle Times (April 18):

Cuts to the State Food Assistance Program Hurt Hungry Kids, State’s Education Goals

Federal Update – Congress, the Farm Bill and tax credits: 

Both the House and Senate are planning to mark up new versions of the Farm Bill this spring, so Washington advocates have been busy talking to Congress members about food stamps, sustainable agriculture and the impact of the Farm Bill in Washington.

Advocates are arranging site visits with their Congress members and staff, including Rep. DelBene and Rep. Smith, so they understand the importance of a strong Farm Bill for Washington families and farms. If you want to host a site visit with a Congress member, we can help – contact us and we’ll help organize the details!  

Congressional Support for Fully Funding SNAP/food stamps:

House Resolution 90 is signed by Congress members who oppose a Farm Bill that cuts SNAP – we’re thrilled that Rep. Adam Smith (CD #9) and Rep. Jim McDermott (CD #7) have signed on.

Take Action: If your Congress member is not Rep. Smith or Rep. McDermott, ask them to sign on to HR 90 now. Thank the members who have signed on so they know we appreciate them!

In the Senate, Sen. Gillibrand (NY) created a similar letter in support of fully funding SNAP, just as she did last year. Please thank Sen. Cantwell for signing onand thank Sen. Patty Murray for her strong, steadfast support of SNAP.

Tax bill that helps low-income people – permanently. 

The Senate’s Working Families Tax Relief Act of 2013 is a bill that permanently extends the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit that earlier legislation extends only 5 years, even as tax cuts for higher income families were made permanent at the end of last year. EITC is the most effective anti-poverty tool in the U.S., and along with the Child Tax Credit, gives our most vulnerable households the boost that keeps them above the poverty line.

Take Action: Call or email Sen. Cantwell to ask her to co-sponsor this important anti-poverty legislation. Sen. Patty Murray is a co-sponsor; we think both our senators should take a stand for Washington’s low-income workers and for families!