Without tax, Senate budget won’t meet needs of children

Kids can’t vote. They usually aren’t at the table when lawmakers sit down to make important decisions. If they could set the state’s budget for the next two years, we would be in a very different place.

All children deserve a fair shot at fulfilling their dreams. Every child should grow up surrounded by loving adults. As a social worker who helps protect children from abuse and neglect — and, when safe, reunites children with their parents — and as a parent who emerged from a personal crisis to regain her children, we firmly believe that we can’t write off a single one of Washington’s 1.6 million children.

But the Senate Republicans’ proposed budget would do just that.

House and Senate budget leaders are meeting now in Olympia to finalize the next two-year budget. They have a lot of work to do to repair the damage done by the recession and years of budget cuts. New, greater, fairer revenue is a political necessity. We owe it to our kids. The Senate, though, hasn’t come up with a budget that works.

The Senate budget shortchanges kids by failing to hire the caseworkers needed to keep children safe. Senators have not provided the funds necessary to ensure that children in the custody of the state are able to see their parents as often as they should, which affects timely reunifications of children with their loving parents.

The recession hurt children two times. While more struggling families fell below the poverty line, the state cut programs of basic support designed to meet their needs. The Children’s Administration alone lost more than $150 million during the recession.

We can’t keep relying on an unfair and insufficient tax structure that lets wealthy individuals and large corporations off the hook for our shared responsibilities. There’s a better way.

Sensible revenue-raising proposals include House Bill 2224. It taxes the unworked-for windfalls of the wealthiest few. Another capital gains tax proposal would apply to fewer than 1 in 1,000 Washingtonians. Taxing the wealthiest few — not the 1 percent, but the superrich 0.1 percent — is a step toward a fair tax structure and a means of improving government functioning.

The children we love, the children we serve, have nowhere to turn but to us for our guidance, our comfort, our leadership — starting now, with a budget that’s fair and meets kids’ needs. We in Washington can do that.

Gina Enochs is a formerly homeless Arlington mother and survivor of drug addiction and domestic violence. Through the YWCA, she now mentors Snohomish County parents working to emerge from crisis and rebuild their families. Michelle Hetzel is a social worker at the Children’s Administration office in Everett. For the last eight years she’s worked as a social worker in Child Protective Services and child welfare services for the state of Washington. She and her husband adopted their daughter from foster care in 2011.

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