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Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Gregoire's Budget Slashes Health-Care Funding for Low-Income Women

Posted by on Wed, Jan 7, 2009 at 4:45 PM

(Updated to reflect new information from NARAL Pro-Choice Washington).

According to NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, the proposed state budget would eliminate about $1 million in funding over two years for nurses providing direct family-planning services to women in community service offices around the state. That's about 58 nurses, plus medical supplies and a state staffer to run the program. The federal government matches the state's funding 9 to 1, which means the cut really amounts to about $12 million. Even worse, the cut eliminates programs that actually save money in the long run—like prenatal care, cancer screening, annual exams, and birth control. Although local papers have praised Gregoire for "keeping her campaign pledge" not to raise taxes, they've mostly ignored another campaign pledge that was instrumental in her November victory over Dino Rossi—her promise "not to balance the budget on the backs of Washington's most vulnerable." Cutting family-planning funding for the state's poorest women would force them to go to county health clinics—and those, too, are getting cut or, in many cases, eliminated altogether.

In fairness to Gregoire, this proposal comes from the Department of Social and Human Services, not Gregoire herself; however, it's in response to a mandate that all government agencies slash funding—a mandate necessitated by the fact that Gregoire won't raise taxes or eliminate corporate tax loopholes.

Karen Cooper, director of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, calls the proposal to cut the nurses' funding "stupid," both because it leverages so much federal money and because it will only cost the state more in the medium to long run. "Obviously, there are going to be cuts, but they need to be thoughtful and smart. You don't cut things that end up costing you more money," Cooper says. "If cutting birth control means there are more babies born in this state, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that that's going to increase [the state's] expenses. Birth control is cheaper than babies."

NARAL is also fighting to change the wording of the state's sex-education law, which currently requires the state to apply for funding for abstinence-only programs. NARAL's preferred wording would require the state to seek funding only for medically accurate, evidence-based sex education programs—programs for which more funding might become available under Obama, who has said he supports comprehensive sex ed. And the group is seeking renewed funding for a small program it runs to train residency doctors to treat spontaneous miscarriages in a doctor's office, rather than sending women to the emergency room, which can cost thousands of dollars more. That program costs about $600,000.

Cooper acknowledges that the state is facing tough economic times, but says that doesn't justify cutting entire programs. "Anybody can cut five percent out of a budget without cutting whole programs," she says. "We're doing it; so can they."


Comments (22) RSS

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So, um, when do they sunset all the corporate tax breaks?
Posted by Will in Seattle on January 7, 2009 at 2:36 PM · Report this
It's time for an income tax.
Posted by Bubbles on January 7, 2009 at 2:38 PM · Report this
so is there a similar plan for men that was not cut? I fail to see the sexism here...
Posted by high and bi on January 7, 2009 at 2:42 PM · Report this
What is wrong with you ECB? I have never seen anyone so oblivious to the greater picture or so focused in on their own special political interests in any capacity on the internet.
Posted by Female Aspergers? on January 7, 2009 at 2:43 PM · Report this
Increase the gas tax.
Posted by Vince on January 7, 2009 at 2:47 PM · Report this

Who's says there's sexism? It's a report by NARAL, which, according to its mandate, is concerned about women's reproductive health.
Posted by keshmeshi on January 7, 2009 at 2:49 PM · Report this
When you're robbing Peter to pay Paul, all budget cuts are painful.
Posted by raindrop on January 7, 2009 at 3:03 PM · Report this
@2 - you know, the legislature could easily impose a flat one percent income tax with a basic $50,000 deduction if it wanted to.

Without going to a vote of the people.

It's in our state constitution.

But ... they're too chicken.
Posted by Will in Seattle on January 7, 2009 at 3:12 PM · Report this
yeah, but raindrop, jobs stimulus fundiing, like the kind obama was talking about, could happen in the health sector, but it's looking like he's going to make it all about road building. so, more roads, less community health service. the cuts are not equally painful.
Posted by ellarosa on January 7, 2009 at 3:15 PM · Report this
The state really needs to lay out its priorities and fund those in order first and cut everything else that isn't funded to zero. Is it going to hurt? Yes. But doing cuts 10 percent across the board in every department isn't going to help anything and is going to hurt essential state functions worse than just getting rid of depts that exist because they live up to some high ideal of some group that states "the state should fund this".

Much like an individual would do with their own budget. Pay for rent, food, utilities and if there's nothing left , than there's nothing left and don't go into any more debt. I'm sick of states trying to state that a little bit of everything will suffer and we should try to keep everything going on reduced amounts. Cut the programs to zero that were recently added, say in the last 10-15 years. Somehow we all got here without those programs in the not so distant past. I'm sure we can do it again.
Posted by Brian in Seattle on January 7, 2009 at 3:20 PM · Report this
Hmm, so poor people are denied treatment in a clinic by a nurse, leaving them the only choice of going to a hospital ER for treatment because ER's have to treat them even though it's a non-emergency. Poor people, not being able to pay thousands of dollars in bills for the ER visit, will walk away from the bill leaving the hospital, and therefore the county, to swallow the debt. Hmm, that sounds cost effective to me!
Posted by yucca flower on January 7, 2009 at 4:14 PM · Report this
@10, the entire problem with that premise is that some people fundamentally believe that the government can spend (and resultantly borrow the funds to spend) the economy out of a recession and is morally obligated to do so in light of the Great Depression.

The counter view is that
A. We are in the current situation largely because of loose interest rates and an increase in debt in all facets of our lives.
B. The reaction to spend and lend our way out isn't feasible if the spending and lending doesn't facilitate GDP growth, tax revenue, and interest payment, greater than the debt burden in the future over the term of the debt issued by the government.
C. There hasn't been a period of time in the past 30 years politically where it was either a good time to raise taxes (it'll supposedly harm the economy or in affluent times people shouldn't part with this growth of income because it is the new floor of income) or it was a bad time to lower taxes (The economy needs more stimulating, taxes are wrong on the principle, we are already exceeding our budget for the next 2 years and should give some back.) No politician of any party in power has the balls to impose higher taxes. The worst part of this lack of balls is the fact that state governments have no mechanism to which they can fund daily operations outside of tax revenue and that revenue goes hand in hand with the economy. Something has to give in this case and politicians are choosing to cut programs in this case.

Posted by Deflation and Debt are bad on January 7, 2009 at 4:27 PM · Report this
I'm sure glad the CEO of Boeing gets to write off part of his marketing budget with my tax dollars - NOT.
Posted by Will in Seattle on January 7, 2009 at 4:28 PM · Report this
@13 That's what you get for thinking Keynesian. Anything can be justified by it.
Posted by Deflation and Debt are bad on January 7, 2009 at 4:41 PM · Report this
worst. decision. ever. less pre natal money at the same time as community health clinics are seeing less money come in is going to create problems on down the road. where are the fundies who say all life is precious?
Posted by jiberish on January 7, 2009 at 4:53 PM · Report this
No, classic Keynesian says that a writeoff for a Boeing CEO has a lower ROI than one for a line worker.

So outsource the CEO and keep the lineworkers with the money we save.
Posted by Will in Seattle on January 7, 2009 at 5:09 PM · Report this
Eliminating safety net programs will not help the economy. Along with this one, The Governor proposes a 42% cut in the Basic Health program--this threatens the well being of a huge number people in our state who are already scrambling. And yeah, people will rely on ER care, and that will cost the state big bucks.
We have to say no...
Posted by alion on January 7, 2009 at 5:53 PM · Report this
#10, Rich white dudes who have never encountered hardship got along fine without these programs. Interestingly, low-income women in need of medical care are not rich white dudes. Maybe we can cut the 30% pay advantage you got just for being born with an outie?
Posted by jrrrl on January 7, 2009 at 6:59 PM · Report this
It's sad that state law forces budget cuts like this. ECB is probably right about it meaning larger long term costs in exchange for short term savings. But that's the sort of irrationality the laws preventing property tax increases and requiring a balanced budget more or less determine.

Re: Keynes - first and foremost the target would be deficit spending, but that's not an option. So then it's a question of whether the multiplier (bang for the buck) for spending is higher than that for taxed income. If the tax is progressive then taxing and spending makes sense, but the taxes the governor could push to raise: sales tax, excise taxes, etc. are regressive to flat. There is probably no fiscal benefit to taxing and spending, and the relative inefficiency of government spending probably makes it a fiscal policy non-starter.
Posted by kinaidos on January 7, 2009 at 7:17 PM · Report this
Ha! Oh man, this is going to cost the state a lot of money. I'm disappointed to see that it will be cutting back on cervical cancer screening. Once cancer gets rolling, it's a very terrible & expensive disease.
I'm a member of the Washington State Drug Prescription Program, I have met a few people who haven't heard of that program, so I'm just putting it out there for people to Google in case they need discounted drugs during this economic crisis.
Posted by kuribo on January 8, 2009 at 1:13 AM · Report this
Can't wait for my Obama tax cut! I'll spend my on condoms.
Posted by homey on January 8, 2009 at 7:37 AM · Report this
Will, as long as the CEO and executive board controls where business operations are conducted, there will always be some incentive from the state to have the executives to throw business into the local area. The ROI by influencing the decision making process to place 10,000 jobs in the Seattle metro area instead of another location justifies things like corporate tax breaks.

The only way to stop this kind of bribery is either through mandate of federal government which brings in constitutional issues or by electing people that don't believe the government should subsidize, give tax breaks, or be involved in private enterprise except in collecting taxes and enforcing laws pertaining to the business.
Posted by Deflation and Debt are bad on January 8, 2009 at 8:46 AM · Report this

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