Today, after enduring a totally unsatisfactory interpretation of the Frog Prince, my little ones and I decided to make the most of the 50 degree weather by bird watching along the Marsh Island/Foster Island trail. My intrepid explorers gleefully ran along the trial ahead of me through mud and puddles, counting benches and observation platforms as they blew right past the great blue heron and the wood ducks. I strolled along behind them enjoying the realization that my kids are now old enough to explore the world together, without continually being tethered to my metaphorical apron strings. Or my literal ones for that matter.
The trail had recently received a new layer of wood chips. They were still peach, fresh-smelling and not entirely coated in mud. Which got me to thinking about this city I live in, and how much I appreciate the wilderness that exists within its limits, and how much I love our parks department that cares for that wilderness and makes sure we have places to traverse even in muddy March.
And then I felt sad. Friday night, the Republicans in our state senate conspired with three turncoat Democrats to hijack the budget process and pass a truly devastating, all-cuts budget. A budget that is immoral and unjust, cutting funding from basic needs like healthcare while our state is still in a recession. When many of our residents don’t have jobs and can’t afford to pay much out of their already thin pockets.
Anyone who has spent anytime educating themselves about cost-savings measures can tell you that healthcare is not something you cut, because you pay for those costs later on. What could have been easily solved in a doctor’s office becomes a trip to the ER. What could have been solved in the ER turns into a tragedy. And if you want to think about death in strict economic terms, we are talking about lost productivity and possible government assistance to the surviving family members. So, you are not saving any money even if you deny someone health care to the point of letting them die.
This budget also cuts funding for K-12 education, higher education, the Disability Lifeline, social services, food assistance and family planning. It also is rumored to eliminate regional funding, which I imagine will translate into less state money at the local level.
Since this recession really started to hit home here in Washington, I have written letters to elected officials are every level begging them to increase taxes in my tax bracket. And here we are, 4 years into this mess, pursuing a cuts-only budget. Oh. My. God. Why won’t any of them look at who lives in this area and ask us to pay more taxes?
Our household, and many like us in Western Washington, has been relatively insulated from the recession because our income comes from technology. And technology professions, like software development, have suffered the least during the past few years. We may not be the 1%, but we probably are the 20%. And since we are not old money, we know how easily we could be in a different position. We have friends and family members out of work. And we want to help. We want there to be a safety net. We want hungry people to have food and sick people to go to the doctor.
And like nearly every other time we have been asked, we would vote to tax ourselves to fund these things.
And yet no one is asking us to.
Washington State doesn’t have an income tax which makes us our current tax structure the most regressive tax structure in the country. Because it would require a constitutional change to introduce an income tax, most law makers are not even willing to consider it. Which I personally think is stupid and obstructionist. But then again, I don’t spend every day beating my head against the rotunda in Olympia.
There has got to be some way of making this more equitable. Granted, my favorite way would be ending corporate tax breaks, but short of that, please, please, please someone ask me and the others in my tax bracket to chip in to help keep our state running.
Because it is breaking my heart to see the things I love about Seattle being dismantled one by one. My local library no longer has a librarian on duty. My local school eliminated its math specialist. My local community center eliminated programming. I don’t even want to think about what my local public health clinic and food bank have eliminated.
And next year, if this budget passes, I’m pretty sure I’ll be wading through mud on my way to Marsh Island. Which is how it should be. Because the hungry can’t eat wood chips. And I would vote for full bellies over fresh wood chips any day of the week.
Just like I would vote for closing tax loopholes and a state income tax too.