An unaffordable mandate

Having failed to convince the Legislature to fund expanded background checks and training for long-term-care workers, the union that represents many such folks is taking its pitch directly to voters for the second time in three years.

We think voters should say no to Initiative 1163, the timing for which couldn’t be worse. It would cost about $18 million over the next two years, just as another $2 billion in state budget cuts are ravaging other programs, including health care, education and corrections.

Voters may well say yes to Initiative 1163, having passed a nearly identical measure in 2008 by a 73-27 percent margin. That won’t make it any more affordable than it was then, when lawmakers facing deep budget cuts declined to implement the unfunded mandate.

Even Gov. Chris Gregoire, who says she agrees that adding more training for people who provide care to seniors and people with disabilities would be a good thing, opposes I-1163, saying the additional costs can’t be justified now.

Among other changes, the measure would increase the training requirement for new long-term-care workers from 34 hours to 75 hours. It would also require that all new workers undergo a federal criminal background check — currently, all workers must pass a state background check; those who are new to Washington already undergo a federal check.

Such changes would be nice to have, but are hardly essential — and certainly not when services such as community supervision of parolees is being slashed.

The Legislature didn’t kill the measure voters passed in 2008, it simply delayed it until the current budget crisis subsides. That so irked the Service Employees International Union that it’s spending more than $1 million to have the Legislature’s responsible decision overturned.

Initiatives that create expensive mandates but no mechanism to pay for them should be among the first things delayed in a budget crisis. The Legislature has also done so, appropriately, with two expensive education measures intended to reduce class sizes and guarantee teachers cost-of-living raises.

I-1163 was born of impatience and stubbornness, and without regard to glaring fiscal realities. Voters should reject it.

Talk to us

More in Opinion

Sen. June Robinson, D-Everett, left, and Sen. Mark Mullet, D-Issaquah, right, embrace after a special session to figure out how much to punish drug possession on Tuesday, May 16, 2023, in Olympia, Wash. Without action, Washington's drug possession law will expire July 1, leaving no penalty in state law and leaving cities free to adopt a hodgepodge of local ordinances.  (Karen Ducey/The Seattle Times via AP)
Editorial: Robinson smart choice to head Senate budget panel

A 10-year legislative veteran, the Everett senator displays a mastery of legislation and negotiation.

Editorial cartoons for Tuesday, Sept. 26

A sketchy look at the news of the day.… Continue reading

Randall Tharp’s month recovery coins after battling a fentanyl addiction.  (Kevin Clark / The Herald)
Fentanyl crisis should force rethinking of approach

A continuum of care, that includes treatment in jails, is imperative, says a journalist and author.

School buses need seat belts and limits on capacity

My name is Grace Davis and I am a seventh-grade middle schooler… Continue reading

Congress must reauthorize funding act for Alzheimer’s research

With more than 6 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s disease, including 120,000… Continue reading

Comment: Democrats have nothing to gain by backing Menendez

Unlike the loss of Al Franken, encouraging the New Jersey senator to go doesn’t cost the Democrats much.

Comment: Amid union victories, labor still faces big challenges

Federal regulations, such as the Taft-Hartley Act, have long stymied labor’s efforts to gain members.

Comment: Desantis’ $2 gas pledge should terrify Texas

He can’t get there unless oil is trading below $55 a barrel; nobdy wants to revisit those days.

Flowers bloom on the end of a dead tree on Spencer Island on Monday, Aug. 28, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Editorial: Restore salmon habitat but provide view of its work

Comments are sought on a plan to restore fish habitat to the island east of Everett with popular trails.

Most Read