As the executive director of El Centro de la Raza, a vital human service and civil rights organization here in the South End serving more than 22,000 people every year, I want to let you know about Tim Eyman’s latest scheme, Initiative 1053.
This is an important election for us in the state, and also here in our community. We're dealing with challenges like maintaining a quality education and helping the increasing number of uninsured weather this economy. At El Centro de la Raza, we provide more than 30 programs tailored to meet the needs of low-income Latinos, and our emergency services — the Food Bank, Latino Hot Meal, Employment, Homelessness Assistance, Foreclosure Intervention and Crisis Advocacy programs — have seen a significant rise in people needing immediate services.
Though poverty is increasing, we've cut more than $4 billion from the state budget in the last two years, and statewide, kicked more than 40,000 people off the Basic Health plan and eliminated thousands of education jobs. Far too often it’s the moment when people need help the most that essential funding gets cut.
From 2008 to 2009, El Centro de la Raza's Food Bank went from serving 3,141 individuals and 1,354 households to serving 3,640 individuals and 3,857 households. In the first half of 2010 alone, the Food Bank provided food aid to 5,007 individuals and half as many households. And just at the time when more and more people are seeking these services, partisan lawmakers are seeking to cut funding.
El Centro's ESL class, an essential educational service for Latinos seeking the language skills necessary for securing stable employment, has been completely cut, leaving more than 150 low-income people without access to the best means of improving their lives.
On top of that, the state recently eliminated health care for over 400,000 people and announced an additional $516 million state budget cut. Fewer services will be available for kids, seniors and people with disabilities. This is a trend that we're doomed to continue when ideologues like Tim Eyman are calling the shots.
His latest scheme, I-1053, would essentially force even deeper cuts. A third of the Legislature — or just 17 extremely partisan senators — would be able to block the steps the majority believes is needed to prevent slashing even more from priorities like health care and education.
There's a lot on the ballot. Please keep in mind who's bankrolling the initiative? Out-of-state interests who want to protect their tax breaks, not our priorities and values.
As the state was cutting essentials earlier this year, British Petroleum, other big oil companies, and Wall Street banks blocked tax reforms that would have ended their freebies.
At a time when the state needs a balanced approach, instead of just making more cuts, four of I-1053’s biggest funders — BP, Shell, Conoco, and Tesoro — would be able to avoid a proposed hazardous substance tax to clean up Puget Sound. I-1053 would also effectively prevent the closure of tax loopholes for private jet owners and out-of-state banks. Make no mistake; I-1053 is about handcuffing our elected officials to the benefit of these corporate interests and to the detriment of us here in Burien.
By forcing more cuts, more services like ours would be reduced. Emergency rooms would be even more crowded. Essential food, shelter, and employment services, like those El Centro de la Raza provides to thousands of people, will face severe cuts. This is a time to expand revenue for services, to promote nutrition, increase skills, create jobs, and provide for children in the hardest hit families. This is not the time to retreat.
In 2009, Washington voters overwhelmingly rejected the last Eyman initiative (I-1033) that would have hobbled both state and local governments.
It’s time to do so again. Don’t let big oil and big banks handcuff us from educating our children and protecting the health of our communities.