UPDATE – About 200 seniors joined Gov. Inslee for the short walk today. He also signed a proclamation for Older Americans Month.
Gov. Jay Inslee is expected to take a short walk with Washington senior citizens on the Capitol Campus on Thursday, part of the Washington Senior Lobby’s events inside the Legislative Building to mark Older Americans Month.
The noon walk from the state Capitol steps grew out of an impromptu promise Inslee made March 11 during a telephone town hall with AARP Washington members. The Democrat said at the time that walking is important to health and he suggested he’d go for a walk if seniors came to Olympia.
“There’ll be 200-300 seniors there,” Washington Senior Lobby president Walt Bowen promised Wednesday. “They’re going to be walking.’’
“I’m serious about this walking,” Inslee had said at the time. “What the evidence shows is that walking itself can have a huge impact not only on your health but on healthcare expenses.’’
Bowen said his group had no idea the Legislature would be in special session when it set up its day of events that begins at 9:30 in the Capitol’s Columbia Room.
But seniors will take advantage of the situation and have two local Democratic lawmakers – Rep. Chris Reykdal of Tumwater and Sen. Karen Fraser of Thurston County – talk about the session. Budget writers in the House and Senate returned Monday for a 30-day special session, and the rest of the Legislature is expected back in force once agreements on a two-year operating budget get nearer.
Lawmakers hope not only to approve a two-year operations budget, but also a construction budget, a transportation tax package and potentially a few policy bills dealing with drunk driving and other issues.
Whatever happens, lawmakers in both the Republican-led Senate and Democrat-controlled House have agreed to one high priority for senior groups – to fully expand Medicaid in the 2013-15 budget. That is expected to provide health insurance coverage to some 250,000 low-income residents that include seniors not yet eligible for Medicare.
But the jury is out on other senior priorities during session. Among the concerns raised this year by the senior lobby and AARP Washington is authorizing an “age wave” study that looks at the implications of an aging population. A bill creating a select legislative committee to study this so-called age “tsunami” passed in the House, but a companion measure died in the Senate.
Bowen said the hope is a budget proviso can provide the study needed.
Seniors also are concerned that the Republican-led Senate’s budget plans would balance books by cutting funds for senior programs, Bowen said. The Senate budget, which does not raise taxes as the House Democrats’ plan would or that Inslee wants, has less money available for K-12 schools or safety net programs. For example, it would cut $10.6 million from chore services such as housekeeping and shopping for seniors enrolled in Medicaid, and it only partially restores funding for dental care, according to an analysis by AARP. UPDATE: AARP’s side-by-side comparison of the House, Senate and Inslee budget plans is here.
The Senior Lobby also is hoping Inslee can put a bit of attention on senior issues when he takes signs a proclamation for Older Americans Month and takes the stroll around the campus. The walk starts at the Capitol steps, goes a couple of blocks to the Tivoli Fountain, and returns to the steps.