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Governor Gregoire Seeks Protection for Children, Seniors Against Federal Budget Cuts

For Immediate Release: February 12, 2007

Proposed cuts in children’s health care, Medicare and Head Start put pressure on Washington families, state budget; funding for Hanford vitrification plant restored

OLYMPIA – Governor Chris Gregoire today called on Congress to restore the drastic cuts to education and health care programs for children and the elderly included in President Bush’s proposed federal budget.

“President’s Bush’s priorities are not in line with the priorities of Washington families,” said Governor Gregoire. “We cannot leave children and seniors without access to health care, but these federal cuts continue to put more and more pressure on Washington residents to pick up the tab.”

Governor Gregoire proposed a state budget that would provide health insurance access to 32,000 additional children, focus on early learning as essential to future academic success and continue to provide a safety net to meet the needs of the elderly, including funding to cover the prescription drug co-pays for seniors enrolled in Medicare Part D. However, many of the improvements proposed by Gregoire could be undercut by the removal of federal funding in President Bush’s budget.

Under the President’s proposal, Head Start programs would take a 1.5 percent cut in funding and the Even Start early literacy program would be eliminated. Reductions in Medicare payments to doctors and hospitals would restrict access to necessary services as providers stop taking elderly Medicare patients. The President proposed funding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) at nearly $2 billion less than is required to continue current services, potentially eliminating the entire program and leaving low-income children uninsured and without access to care.

“This federal budget is built on the backs of our most vulnerable citizens, but we cannot allow our children, families and seniors to be hurt by misguided policies,” said Governor Gregoire. “I applaud our delegation in Congress for their strong leadership, and I will continue to work with them to do what’s right for Washington families.”

Governor Gregoire pledged to work with the Congressional delegation to fight cuts that would drastically impact Washington families and the state budget. Senator Patty Murray and Senator Maria Cantwell pledged to work to reverse cuts that hurt our children, families and seniors.

“If the budget is a statement of priorities, this President is out of touch with the needs of Washington state families,” said Senator Murray. “In fact, this budget takes an ax to everything from housing to Medicare to port security in an effort to continue to pay for fiscally irresponsible policies. Washington state residents deserve better.”

“In nearly every category, the president’s budget shortchanges Washington families. At a time when our state is working to expand health care coverage for kids, this budget would undercut our progress and prevent us getting more children covered,” said Senator Cantwell. “By failing to live up to the president’s State of the Union commitment to energy independence, his budget won’t reduce our country’s over-dependence on fossil fuel or tackle climate change.”

The President’s budget is now being considered by Congress.