By Amanda Hunt, Intern
The 2012 legislative session was a whirlwind of good, bad, and even ugly. Our legislators had, once again, the difficult task of reducing Washington’s budget due to revenue shortfall. There was much disagreement on cutting of programs, which ultimately lead to another special session. Toward the end of the regular session, Republican Senator Joesph Zarelli and three road-kill Democrats pushed through an all cuts budget that would have been devastating to struggling families and vulnerable populations in our state. Luckily, the house did not approve of these cuts, and we went right into special session. That budget would have eliminated disability lifeline, working connections childcare, food assistance for low-income families, etc. It would have also made more severe cuts to Higher Education, k-12, and basic health.
During the budget debates, I had the opportunity to go to the Washington Community Action Networks lobby day. We went to advocate for the closing of the many tax loopholes and show support for the Affordable Care Act. EWU student Jaydra Cope bravely testified in favor of this new bill, and it has now been signed into law. Immediately following senator Zarelli’s actions in the Senate, I was one of 10 people from Spokane who carpooled to Olympia with Washington Community Action Network to tell Zarelli to “Stop playing politics with people’s lives.” WACAN organized a sit-in at his office, an act of disobedience for which I volunteered. This action received a ton of media coverage to show him and his colleagues that the residents of Washington weren’t going to take his immoral practices or more cuts to lifeline programs for struggling families and individuals.
The special session consisted of back and forth debates, with Republicans refusing to negotiate. They went into a second special session after midnight on the last day, but our legislators finally took a bipartisan approach and settled on a budget between six and seven in the morning.
The budget they decided upon preserved the social safety net programs, and they voted to lower tax deductions for large, out-of-state banks. Although we have a lot more loopholes to close, this is an example of how contacting your legislators really can make a difference. With everything from letters, emails, and capitol visits to lobbying, we all had a say in preserving vital social welfare programs in our state.
I am extremely proud of the legislators who fought hard to save these programs and everyone who took the time and effort to contact them.