Blood on the budget axe | OPINION

Anyone looking closely saw actual tears forming in Governor Gregoire’s eyes when she announced a menu of cuts equal to our state’s budget shortfall. Anyone who criticizes that lady’s priorities ought to be sentenced to the cruel and inhuman punishment of taking over her job.

The state is obliged by law to support public education. But the money isn’t there. The state is mandated to do a bunch of other things it can’t afford. When mandates aren’t in place it is still obligated out of common decency to take care of helpless citizens. But the money isn’t there.

The proposed cuts aren’t idle threats. Certain of the cuts will cause hunger, displacement and even death. The cuts will damage agriculture, ecology, fish and wildlife, natural resources, state parks, the disabled, long-term care, juvenile justice, mental health and education. And this round of cuts may not be the last.

The governor invited us to read the list of cuts at  www.ofm.wa.gov. What follows is a sampling, re-worded in some cases to combine titles with effects.

  • Eliminate the international marketing program that helps Washington farmers and ranchers to sell crops on international markets.  ($1.5 million)
  • Close the Samish and Nemah hatcheries which will halt production of fall Chinooks in the Samish-Nooksack region.  ($1.6 million)
  • Reduce preschool enrollment by 25 percent. ($14.0 million)
  • Eliminate school bus transportation, except for disabled children. ($220.million)
  • Increase class size by two students in grades 4-12. ($137.0 million)
  • Eliminate full-day kindergarten for 16,900 students in high-poverty schools. ($38.0 million)
  • Reduce staffing for small high schools with fewer than 300 full-time students.($5.0 million)
  • End the state’s Need Grant financial aid to 70,000 low income students.($303.0 million)
  • Reduce state support to colleges and universities by 20 percent. ($220 million)
  • Reduce summer chum recovery efforts in hood Canal and Grays River along with salmon monitoring activities. ($1.2 million)
  • Terminate sampling of Pacific herring and sole for toxic contaminants. ($714,000)
  • Reduce shellfish harvest and management including seeding. A 20 percent reduction in harvest is expected. ($536,000)n Eliminate ballast water inspections for ships in Puget Sound and the Columbia River. This invites the spread of invasive species such as zebra mussels. ($352,000)
  • Reduce support for state parks by 10 percent. ($11.7 million)
  • Terminate health insurance for 134,000 needy children from low income families.($345 million)
  • Suspend adult Medicaid pharmacy benefits. ($127.3 million)
  • Terminate the Basic Health Plan that delivered subsidized health care to 35,000 low-income individuals. ($48.1 million)
  • Eliminate maternity support services for 55,000 pregnant women who are at risk of unhealthy birth outcomes. ($20.9 million)
  • Eliminate medical interpreter services for patients whose primary language is not English. ($4.8 million)
  • Eliminate health care for 21,000 workers with disabilities who have relied on the program to remain employed. ($1.9 million)
  • Reduce environmental health protection that monitored water systems and on-site septic systems. ($1.3 million)
  • Eliminate state funds for domestic violence programs that serve about 16,700 individuals. ($9.4 million)
  • Increase the ratio of clients to social workers. ($8.2 million)
  • Eliminate child welfare programs such as sex-abuse, foster care assessment, adoption support and street youth issues. ($7.3 million)
  • Reduce foster care length of stay for 200 hard-to-place foster children now in care. ($876,000)
  • Reduce outpatient chemical-dependency services for 11,000 low-income clients. ($14.5 million)
  • Eliminate long-term residual and recovery houses for clients who are chronically disabled or chemically dependent. ($22.7 million)
  • Eliminate the rate add-ons for nursing homes that enable care-givers to accept Medicaid patients. ($9.9 million)
  • Eliminate adult day health programs that serve 1,000 individuals with developmental disabilities. ($4.1 million)
  • Eliminate naturalization services for immigrants attempting to become U.S. citizens. ($2.6 million)
  • Reduce juvenile court county funds by 20 percent. ($5.5 million)
  • Close two state hospital wards for dementia and traumatic brain injury. ($5.1 million)

All this agony covers less than $1.25 billion of a $2.0 billion budget shortfall and that dismal picture may dim further after federal budget-cutters decide how much of their $1.2 trillion in cuts will hit Washington’s colleges and state and local government. Granted, federal cuts are slated to spread over a decade but whatever the amount, they will result in further trimming here at home.

We’re living out a painful lesson. What got us into this pickle was deregulation of the finance industry, yet greed-driven forces still lobby for further deregulation. Though capitalism will always be as American as apple pie, unregulated capitalism has once again reared up to trash decades of painstaking growth and accomplishment.  The 99 Percenters have it right.

Marysville, Arlington, Lake Stevens and Stanwood will feel the cuts along with every town in the state. Every sane analyst pins the reason for the shortfall to one main cause; the collapse of the sub-prime mortgage market. Remember that the next time you vote. Find out who pushes deregulation that encourages banks to gamble with the public’s money and vote accordingly.

Comments may be addressed to robertgraef@comcast.net.



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