Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Critical Budget Action Needed!

H.R. 4213, originally named the "American Jobs and Closing Tax Loopholes Act" has now been renamed the "Unemployment Compensation Extension Act." It originally included a 6 month extension of the FMAP (Federal Medicaid Assistance Percentage) increase. The FMAP extension was removed and the bill is now moving forward just addressing unemployment benefits.

Most services that individuals with developmental disabilities receive from our state are paid for by state funds and FMAP funds. Because of the recession, states were granted a temporary increase in the FMAP percentage they received. HR 4213 was supposed to extend that increase for another 6 months. Because it appeared it would pass, our state built last year's budget on the assumption we would receive that extra funding.

If Congress does not approve the FMAP funding by the Aug. 9 recess, the Governor has said that she would have no choice but to make across-the-board cuts of 4 to 5 percent to make up for the $480 million dollars shortfall. This means many services would be cut or eliminated.

Time is of the essence! Call your Senators today and ask them to fight to get the extension of the FMAP increase put back into HR 4213. The Senate will likely vote on this bill later this week, then it moves on to the House. We hope Senator Murray and Senator Cantwell will push to include this before it is voted on.

Act now by phone and email at

UPDATE: The Senate passed HR 4213 on July 21, 2010 WITHOUT including the FMAP extension. Senator Murray continues to work with the House to get it included in the bill on the House floor. Calls and emails needed now to your Representative, calls are best as they are counted by issue. Follow the link above to act.

UPDATE: HR 4213 passed both House on July 22, 2010 without FMAP extension. Not giving up, Congress is in session until August 9th.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Got any money saving ideas?

This year is shaping up to be another difficult budget time for our state legislature. We are looking at another $3 billion dollar shortfall this biennium. Since 2008 our state has had to figure out how to deal with a $12 billion shortfall, $5.1 billion of which was filled by cuts to services and progams,$3.6 billion from federal funds, $1.7 billion transferred funds, $.8 billion from new revenue, $.6 billion from the Rainy Day Fund and an ending fund balance of $.25 billion.

The recession is just part of the reason. More people are needing services like Medicaid, health care costs are rising, the prison population is growing, more children are enrolling in public schools and there are increasing state employee pension obligations. We lost $7.8 billion in expected state revenues because of low consumer spending, home values and sales dropped as well as other factors.

Our economy is improving, but at a very slow rate. It will take a few years before we can rebound from this. Currently our state's revenue is comprised 44.7% from taxes, 27.6% from federal grants, 24.7% from charges and miscellaneous revenues and 3% from licenses, permits and fees.

Governor Gregoire is approaching this upcoming budget using Priorities Of Government (POG). This budget process starts with a zero-base new budget. Each piece of the budget will be looked at as to whether it should be in the state's budget based on several criteria in three categories:

1. Is the activity an essential service?
2. Does state government have to perform the activity or can it be provided by others?
3. Can the activity be eliminated or delayed in recessionary times?
4. Does the activity need to be paid for with state general funds? Should users pay a portion of the cost?
5. Are there federal funds or other fund sources available to support this activity?

6. Are there more cost-effective, efficient ways to do the activity?

7. Can the activity be the subject of a performance contract?
8. Can the activity be the subject of a performance incentive?

Governor Gregoire is seeking public input on the budget. She has arranged to hold four public meetings in Tacoma, Everett, Vancouver and Spokane to ask for suggestions on ideas citizens may have regarding areas where money could be saved or work done more cost-effectively. The public is invited to share ideas at

Once an idea is posted on the web site, citizens can vote whether they support that idea or not. The ideas with the most votes rise to the top, which will help the Governor as she creates this next budget. Some ideas are fairly broad, such as welfare reform. Others are specific, such as not requiring a front license plate.

Be involved! If you have an idea, submit it. You could help save a program important to you with your suggestion of how to do it more efficiently or by suggesting somewhere to cut spending not needed right now.

Developmental Disability advocates are drafting efficiency ideas to present to members of the Governor's Committee on Transforming Washington’s Budget. If you have ideas that will help preserve services important to individuals with developmental disabilities and their families let us know. Remember, change is made by those who show up. Let your voice be heard!