Friday, August 21, 2009

Tours for Legislators - Show Them Community

Guest Blogger: Scott Livengood

As most, if not all of you know, our state continues to face budget difficulties in light of the economic downturn. This last legislative session was extremely challenging and ended with significant cuts for services for people with development disabilities, including cuts to vocational services, elimination of some adult day health services, cuts to Medicaid Personal Care hours, a reduction in the benchmark for supported living and group home providers, the holding of vacancies for community residential, and the decision not to close Yakima Valley School – among many other budget decisions. For agencies such as ours, the cuts have been extremely difficult as the reduction in revenue was directly targeted at the funding for wages and benefits for our valued employees who are already paid below a livable wage for direct support positions.

These are extremely hard economic times and the worst may not be over. Recent budget forecasts have shown an additional revenue shortfall that will need to be addressed. In addition, a separate initiative slated for the ballot would mean reduced revenues if passed. With decreased state revenue, the legislature will be going back to the budget to trim additional services. All of this could mean that essential services for people with developmental disabilities will continue to face the devastating impact of budget cuts.

In an effort to make our voice heard and educate legislators of the effects of the recent cuts, CRSA is working to coordinate legislative tours over the next couple of months. Supported living agencies are being designated as the lead in each legislative district and are being provided with contacts from the various coalitions and the vocational providers in the district. The intent is to conduct a coordinated visit with the legislators in each district. By working together, we will be able to show the quality of the services provided, the impact of the recent cuts, and the need to preserve these critical community resources. At these tours, information will be shared via a PowerPoint presentation and a video, as well as tours of homes in order to put a face on the services provided, illustrate the need and un-met need of families and people with developmental disabilities, and show the reality that people with development disabilities are being provided quality services in the community and that all individuals with developmental disabilities should be afforded this same opportunity and right.

The battle is not over. We ask that you get involved and make your voices heard. Please join us in meeting our legislators to advocate for funding for people with developmental disabilities. We need to take this opportunity to get the word out prior to the legislature going back into session, rather than scrambling in January and February to stave off any further cuts. Of course, we will still be working diligently during those months, but it is best to grab this opportunity when legislators actually have more than 15 minutes to meet with us! During these seemingly insurmountable times we must make sure that vital community resources for some of our most vulnerable citizens do not continue to be harmed. Please join us in these efforts!

About our guest blogger: Scott Livengood is the CEO of Alpha Supported Living Services, which is a nonprofit supported living agency providing community residential services for adults with developmental disabilities living in King County. They have been providing supports for 35 years and he is now in his ninth year at the agency. He has worked in the field for over 16 years and previously worked as a certification evaluator contracted with DDD and as a Program Supervisor for another supported living agency in the area. He originally started as a direct support professional, so he is acutely aware of the challenges and rewards of providing direct support for people with developmental disabilities. He previously served as the Chair of the Community Residential Services Association (CRSA), served as the Co-Chair of the Valued Lives Conference, and currently serves as the Legislative Co-Chair for CRSA.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Preliminary analysis of Initiative 1033

Guest Blogger - Remy Trupin

The Budget & Policy Center has lots of information on this issue in the form of a PowerPoint, one of our blog posts, or the paper we developed based on our powerpoint. They all can be found on our website or blog:

This is our preliminary analysis of Initiative 1033, a ballot initiative filed by Tim Eyman for the November 2009 ballot. It is for educational purposes only and does not constitute an organizational position on the initiative.

The basics. Initiative 1033 limits the total growth in revenue each year for state, county, and city general funds. If total revenue (including taxes and fees) for a state or local government grows more quickly than the prescribed limit, property taxes would automatically be reduced. Revenue raised in binding public votes would be exempt.

The key problems with this approach are:

1. It limits the growth in revenue to inflation plus population growth. This limit does not account for the natural increase in the cost of government, which rises faster than inflation in general in part because the services provided by government (particularly health care) have higher-than-average inflation rates.

2. This measure would severely limit the ability of state and local government to make expanded long-term investments in education, transportation, health care, and economic security.

3. During periods of recession, revenue can fall sharply because of decreased economic activity (as we are currently experiencing). The measure would limit the ability of government to return to the previous revenue level because the base would be reset. Because this measure would be enacted during the worst fiscal crisis in memory, this provision would be particularly damaging.

4. Property taxes already have strict limitations on growth and levels. The result of these has been particularly hard on local governments, who have limited ability to raise other taxes.

5. Shifting from the property tax to other tax sources makes our tax system less stable because property taxes are one of the least volatile revenue sources we have.

Similar measures have been disastrous elsewhere. The “Tax-payer Bill of Rights” (TABOR) passed in Colorado in 1992 is a case-study of this type of poor fiscal policy. TABOR amended the state constitution to restrict revenue and expenditure growth to the sum of inflation plus population change and require voter approval to override the revenue or spending limits.

In Colorado, TABOR resulted in far reaching negative consequences including large increases in the number of children who are uninsured (ranking last in the nation in that measure), dropping higher education and K-12 funding so significantly that they now rank as the 49th and 48thlowest state investing in the respective areas. In 2005, voters in Colorado responded to the deterioration of their public structures by suspending the TABOR for 5 years.

What are your thoughts on this Initiative?

About our Guest Blogger:

Remy Trupin is the founding executive director of the Budget & Policy Center. He directs the activities of the Budget & Policy Center with a focus on strategic direction, external connections and state budget analysis. Remy has worked at the federal and state levels for foundations and funders, produced research and conducted direct lobbying.

The Washington State Budget & Policy Center provides credible, independent and accessible information and analyses of state fiscal issues including both revenue and spending policies, with particular attention to the impacts on low and moderate-income persons. Their products inform state fiscal and budget policy debates and contribute to sound decisions that improve the well-being of individuals, communities and the state as a whole.