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I-1163: Can’t afford it, don’t need it, hurts the state

Post by TNT Editorial Board / The News Tribune on Oct. 8, 2011 at 7:40 pm |
October 7, 2011 5:59 pm

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

If you think this is a good time for the state to spend millions of dollars it doesn’t have on something it doesn’t need, Initiative 1163 is your baby.

Otherwise, kill this measure and let lawmakers try to do damage control on the state’s recession-stricken budget without the interference of another unfunded mandate.

I-1163 is a stinker wrapped up in pretty paper with a bow on top. Pushed by the Service Employees International Union, it purports to address a supposed epidemic of abuse in adult family homes and other long-term care settings.

To this end, it would require that the aides who work in those places get 75 hours of training – as opposed to the current 34 – and federal background checks.

These provisions actually are already state law; they were enacted in 2008 when voters approved Initiative 1029. The Legislature has twice pushed the effective dates down the road to postpone the measure’s administrative, training and federal screening costs.

Legislators kicked the can for good reason: The original initiative – like the current one – included no revenues to pay for itself. It may have looked like a freebie to voters, but it demanded that tens of millions of dollars be sucked out of existing programs.

Budget writers who knew the issue – and were struggling to spare such fundamentals as education, child protective services and necessary protection of people with disabilities – had no problem putting the initiative on hold.

Why? The first initiative – like the nearly identical current version – would divert precious dollars to what doesn’t need doing and what’s already being done.
The state, for example, already requires state background checks (and federal fingerprint checks for aides who’ve moved here from other states).

The 75-hours-of-training requirement looks like self-dealing; the SEIU itself would likely be providing much or most of the instruction, giving it hefty income and lots of bonding time with the workers.

In any case, a one-size-fits-all curriculum makes little sense, given the diversity of circumstances aides work in. You would think, if the required training were vitally important for all aides, there’d be a single, widely recognized curriculum to fill those 75 hours. That gold standard doesn’t appear to exist.

Passage of I-1163 would again saddle the Legislature with a rigid, union-dictated mandate of questionable value – but with no money to pay for it.

Washington State is in a fiscal crisis. After carving hundreds of millions of dollars out of education, treatment for the mentally ill, health care for the working poor and other crucial social services, lawmakers now face the grim prospect of carving yet another $2 billion out of these same programs.

Yet the SEIU is again trying to siphon millions away for the sake of consolidating its hold on long-term care. Shame.

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