OLYMPIA, Wash. - At an AARP luncheon today, panelists from both political parties are sharing their views about the budget impasse at the state Capitol, and what it means for seniors, with voters over age 50.
With the legislative session halfway over, there isn't much love in the air on this Valentine's Day. The House and Senate don't agree, and neither do Republicans and Democrats, on how to remedy the almost $1 billion budget shortfall. Sen. Ed Murray (D-43rd Dist.), who chairs the Ways and Means Committee, says he's concerned that the slogan "reform before revenue" isn't helping things.
"We need to make government more efficient; we need to make it easier for people to use the services of government. I don't think it's an either/or question of reform or revenue. I think we need to do both."
Murray says he has proposed new funding options that would keep senior services in place, but has so far received no Republican support to get to the two-thirds majority vote necessary to raise revenue.
AARP Washington, which estimates more than $23 million in additional cuts to senior programs are on the table, is part of a coalition that opposes more cuts to home and community-based care. AARP Washington Advocacy Director Ingrid McDonald says Washington's long-term care system is already considered one of the most efficient in the country - and trimming it further means sending more people to nursing homes. She's concerned that lawmakers will put off the toughest decisions.
"It's troubling from an advocate's perspective, because we know that we're in grave danger unless they can come to consensus - through revenues that they can achieve without a super-majority vote. Because they can say, 'I'm going to send a revenue package to the people, and that will buy back cuts' - but we all know that's a huge gamble."
McDonald says state lawmakers could get more federal matching dollars, raise license fees for adult family homes, and take other steps without a two-thirds vote or a ballot measure. AARP members are coming from around the state to be part of the Senior Lobby Day events.