Letter to the Editor: Vote NO on Initiative 1163

Initiative 1163 must be defeated because its $80 million cost cannot be paid for without tax increases or cuts to vital senior services.  Like the rest of the nation, the State of Washington has grappled with crippling budget deficits for four legislative sessions.  With Governor Gregoire calling a special 30-day legislative session to deal with the crisis, there’s an additional 1.4 billion reasons to oppose I-1163.

As the Washington Research Council wrote in its new initiative analysis:  “I-1163:  One, twice, still not a priority.”

Voters, don’t be fooled. I-1163 represents the wrong priorities.  Mandatory caregiver training and criminal background checks are already required by law.  I-1163 costs $80 million in the next two years and benefits just one interest group – Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Every daily newspaper in the state, including the News Tribune and the Seattle Times, have taken a position on this measure and urge voters to say NO 1163.

State officials agree.  At a time when they couldn’t agree on much, 82 percent of lawmakers voted to delay the previous training initiative, I-1029.  At a time when the Legislature was eliminating entire programs, elected officials were unwilling to fund a new government project.  Only SEIU and their few allies supported the expensive new program.

Last spring, the Legislature cut more than $500 million in medical services and in-home care to seniors and adults with disabilities.  Eliminated were vision and hearing aids, dental care, and a reduction in prescription drugs coverage.  In-home care services, which allow seniors and the people with disabilities to safely stay in their homes with the help of visiting caregivers, were slashed. Overall, there were more than $2 billion in cuts at DSHS, affecting children, the mentally ill, and the working poor.  Other areas of the state budget were slashed as well, including public education and prisons staffing.

Less than four months later, state agencies have prepared additional 10 percent cutbacks to address the latest shortfall, including the elimination of another $873 million at DSHS.  Care will end for 17,000 seniors and adults with disabilities; the Health Care Authority has sharply reduced emergency room visits for poor people receiving Medicaid; and our correctional facilities are releasing hundreds of inmates and mental patients into the community.

The state is desperate for money.  There is simply no way to pay for I-1163.

Our industry is absolutely committed to the highest standards of training and professional business practices.   That isn’t what this initiative is about. It’s about a powerful special interest writing self-serving policy for their own benefit.

How does SEIU propose to pay the $80 million price tag of I-1163?   SEIU’s selfish, cavalier approach to the current budget crisis is unconscionable. Whose medical services will be eliminated to pay for I-1163? Whose school lunches do they intend to cut? Whose taxes do they intend to raise?  How many seniors will go without care so the SEIU can fund their training program?

In addition to forcing a new program onto an unwilling state government, 1163 will require significant new costs on long term care, which will drive up the cost for residents and clients.  Nursing homes, adult family homes, and home care businesses will have to pay thousands of dollars per year to fund SEIU’s new program.  How many long term care workers will lose their jobs?  How many vulnerable adults will see the quality of their care diminished because long term care centers are forced to cut costs to pay for new training they neither want nor need?

To preserve services for seniors and people with disabilities, the only responsible thing to do is vote NO on 1163.

For addition information on the No on Initiative 1163 campaign, please visit: http://www.no1163.com/


(Julie Ferguson is co-chair of People Protecting Our Seniors – NO 1163 (www.no1163.com) is a broad-based coalition that includes organizations advocating for senior protection, disability rights, residential housing, long term care, business and consumer advocates.  The coalition members care for more than 500,000 seniors and people with disabilities in the State of Washington.)