California has laid off thousands of teachers and defunded essential services such as health care and education -- yet they still deal with budget crisis after budget crisis.
Why? Several years ago California approved a measure that prohibits the legislature from investing in education and health care unless a two-thirds super majority agrees to it -- which means a small minority can block action. Because of that measure, essential services for children and seniors have been drastically cut -- and the same will happen here if Washington state voters pass I-1053.
In Washington, I-1053 gives just 17 legislators the power to hold the state budget hostage. Handing power over to this small minority will cause gridlock and irresponsible decisionmaking here, just like it has in California. If I-1053 passes, it will prevent our state from taking reasonable measures to manage the budget deficit and will create California- style gridlock. That gridlock can only result in further cuts to the entire education system, from early learning to state public colleges and universities, as well as to our basic health care program -- that's on top of the $4.4 billion that has already been cut from our state budget.
When the similarly Tim Eyman-backed I-960 narrowly passed in 2007, we didn't know that we would be facing the worst recession since the Great Depression. Forty-four thousand people have already been cut from the Basic Health Plan, and outreach efforts to get children enrolled in the Apple Health for Kids program have been defunded. Twenty-six hundred education jobs were eliminated and college tuition has skyrocketed by nearly 30 percent at the same time as scholarships have been cut.
While times are tough, Washington is still doing better than many states. If we tie our hands with gridlock, we won't be able to reinvest in education and health care when times are better.
We at the Children's Alliance fought hard this past legislative session to protect vital services for kids and families. If I-1053 had been in place this year, some narrow victories would have been impossible. The state would have eliminated Apple Health insurance coverage for 16,000 children, dealing a fatal setback to the state's effort to cover all kids.
Other programs that give parents the support they need to get their children off to the best possible start in life would have felt the budget ax. Working Connections, which helps low-wage families af- ford child care, and home visiting, which matches trained professionals with parents from pregnancy through the earliest years of a child's life -- would have sustained serious damage. Maternity support services that help high-risk mothers deliver healthy babies would have been cut; so too would assistance to kids in foster care preparing to be in- dependent adults. Fewer students would have been able to afford college, and our seniors and disabled neighbors would have been left to fend for themselves.
It's just common sense that I-1053 is bad for Washington. So why would we give just 17 legislators the power to block the majority from taking action?
The answer is that Big Oil and Big Wall Street Banks are funding a deceptive campaign to push I-1053. Why? Because they want to keep their tax loopholes and giveaways. In fact, BP is the largest donor to I-1053. BP doesn't have our kids' interests at heart, and we shouldn't let it call the shots when it comes to our investments in education and health care.
Our state's voters know better than to let Big Oil and Big Wall Street Banks tell us what to do. That's why a growing coalition of advocates for children, the elderly and education, including teachers, nurses, firefighters, the Washington Association of Churches, the Community Health Network, the Washington State Hospital Association, the Washington Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Washington State Public Health Association, and AARP have joined us to vote NO on 1053.
To learn more and join the fight against this devastating initiative, please visit www.voteno1053.com.