The way the state pays for long-term care and a host of other services no longer works. Year after year, the state has made wholesale cuts in budgets because leaders have created a tax structure that is out of whack.
I’ve been a long-term care professional for more than two decades. No one gets into my line of work to get rich. Our aim is to provide our patients with the kind of care that maintains their dignity. We also strive to create a workplace that meets the needs of our employees. But these two goals are tough to achieve at a time when Medicaid reimbursement rates are falling and state funding for nursing homes is on the decline.
I don’t believe our lawmakers want to shortchange us. Bad economic times and so-called tax reforms have conspired against them, although some are co-conspirators when it comes to tax policy. The legislature has had to deal with shrinking revenues. Their response has not been to go out and find more revenue, but to cut the budgets instead.
Many of those cuts have been in health care spending for the elderly. As a result, our most vulnerable citizens have had to bear the burden of reduced resources and rising costs.
Those of us who run health care facilities have had to make tough decisions about which expenses are vital. It's sort of like deciding whether to pay the electrical bill or the water bill. Without adequate funding from the state, it gets harder and harder to deliver the level of care we want to provide.
I love going home at night knowing that I've helped someone. We do the best we can with what we have. But without more funding, the quality of care we provide is in jeopardy. And we’re not the only people in this boat. The state needs to find new sources of revenue just to pay for the basics like transportation, education and mental health care. But caring for our elderly shouldn't get bumped to the bottom of the list. Our aging loved ones deserve better.
We need to overhaul our tax structure so that it is fair, accountable, shared and stable.
Everyone, businesses and individuals alike, need to pay their fair share. No more, but no less. We need to increase accountability by closing corporate tax loopholes that are great for a privileged few but don't serve Washington as a whole. The solution to our tax issues should be shared equitably to boost state revenues because we will also share in the prosperity that results. And lastly, we need a stable, predictable revenue source that doesn't swing wildly with the ups and downs of the economy.
The state already has a long list of potential solutions to our revenue crisis at its fingertips, including a capital-gains tax on wealthy investors, a carbon tax on the state's worst polluters and the elimination of some of the state's 600-plus tax breaks and loopholes. But it's up to the legislature to recognize the problem and finally do something about it.
Washington State has the most regressive tax system in the nation. If you are poor in this state nearly one-fifth of your meager income ends up going to the state in taxes. If you are rich about 2 ½ percent goes to the state. That’s simply not fair.
I went into the long-term care business to serve people who are at a difficult time in life. I can't be silent when our lawmakers are failing to fix our broken tax system and placing the quality of the care of the people I serve in jeopardy. It’s time our lawmakers stopped the political blustering and found a fix for our tax system.