The Senate Budget Will Cause More Homelessness and Harm the Most Vulnerable

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Senator Adam Kline (37th-Seattle) Guest Blog Post

The Senate Operating Budget, which passed Friday night 30 to 18, is a cruel proposal that balances itself on the backs of the poor by eliminating and radically reducing funding for the many programs that they rely on. Budget writers in the Majority Caucus Coalition justified these drastic cuts with the suggestion that non-profit organizations will pick up the slack and fill the service gap left by these reductions. This is not how I believe we should be running our government.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) has seen drastic cuts in recent years. Working families have been hit the hard in these tough economic times and this budget proposal doesn’t make things any better for them. TANF is a good program. Without this support, many parents will be unable to provide for their children and the cycle of poverty will more likely continue on into future generations.  I believe that it is the job of our government to make sure the basic needs of all people are met. I support restoring the TANF cash grant amount by 15%, or back to the 2010 level.  I also support restoring exemptions to the lifetime limit of the program and cosponsored a bill to do just that. Unfortunately, this bill has “died” in the Republican controlled Senate.

Likewise, the cuts to the Aged, Blind, and Disabled program and the Housing and Essential Needs program are unconscionable. If the Senate budget were to pass as proposed, thousands of Washingtonians would remain homeless or be at risk of becoming homeless.

One of the best ways to prevent people from becoming homeless is through affordable housing. That is why I believe in funding the Housing Trust Fund. The HTF is a reasonable request and a necessary investment into our communities.  Since the fund was created, the 37th district has benefited from roughly $82 million in appropriations, which has created over 4,000 units for low-income persons.

Throughout my time serving in the Senate, I have been an advocate for low-income housing. Cutting HTF during a recession is the opposite of what we should be doing as a matter of policy. For one thing, money spent in construction and renovation has a stimulating effect on the economy in the short-term.  For another, cuts in vital programs such as the HTF have an immediate negative effect on the well-being of Washingtonians, especially those who are most vulnerable. The majority of people who benefit from the HTF are people with disabilities, veterans, families leaving homelessness, the elderly, and survivors of domestic abuse.

A budget that makes investments in education through the divestment in safety net programs will set up thousands of Washington students to fail. A truly comprehensive budget would include new revenue and closure of tax loopholes to meet State obligations. The proposed budget closes ZERO loopholes and includes no new revenue. I elaborate on this point in my blog article here.

I am just as upset with the budget proposed by the Senate as I know homelessness advocates are and I am proud to be one of the 18 “no” votes. I’ll join with other Senate Democrats to attempt to make it better before it is finalized. The House is expected to release their version of the budget this week and I expect it to be much friendlier to the programs and services that many Washingtonians rely on. I am hoping that our House colleagues will be able to make more dramatic and positive changes in their proposal.  Rest assured I will do my best to see that these programs are treated fairly in the budget process. I encourage you to keep taking action and to keep speaking up.

Sen. Adam Kline is the State Senator for Washington's 37th District, comprising a part of South Seattle and Renton. He has served the 37th District for over 12 years and chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. He is also a member of the Government Operations and Elections Committee and the Rules Committee.

Note: Our sister organization the Washington Low Income Housing Alliance makes it easy for you to follow Sen. Kline's advice "to keep taking action and to keep speaking up." Click here to quickly and easily send a message to your legislators that the Senate budget is harmful and unacceptable.