Ever see those road signs that say: “your tax dollars at work”? It’s not always so easy to see where tax dollars are going. Case in point: A $609 million corporate tax exemption for fuel is staying on the books, even while legislators debate whether to defund basic health and medical services for Washington residents.
According to the Department of Social and Health Services, the Washington State Medicaid program has already stopped paying for a half-dozen categories of care, ranging from adult hearing aids and eyeglasses to non-emergency dental care for most adults and Medicare Part D drug co-pays for the disabled and the elderly.
The next round of cuts could include terminating health coverage for 27,000 Washington children; ending Washington’s Basic Health Plan (BHP) – despite a 130,000 person wait list growing by 300 people per day; ending medical coverage for disabled Washingtonians served by the Disability Lifeline; and defunding alcohol and drug addiction treatment programs.
Those cuts means someone like Ronald Caine, a printing operator from Randle, Lewis County who was laid off in 2007, could literally go blind:
Now on Basic Health, he’s in the midst of eye surgeries doctors say he needs to save his sight. The next was planned for mid-March — after the [Basic Health] plan is to close. “I’m on the ragged edge,” says the 64-year-old Cain. “I’m stuck in limbo.”
In tight economic times, public officials need to carefully scrutinize both sides of the ledger. That means taking a close look at nearly $4 billion in corporate subsidies and tax exemptions – many of which have been on the books since the 1930’s – to really weigh their value to the public. That $609 million tax exemption on fuel? If it were taken off the books, legislators could restore funding for:
- The Basic Health Plan ($230 million);
- The Disability Lifeline ($327.2 million);
- Early learning programs for kids ($14.7 million);
- The Highly Capable (‘Gifted’) program, ($18.6 million);
- And school-based medical service reimbursements ($11 million).
So, where should Washington be putting its public resources to work?