In this state, you might be better off being a chicken

March 31, 2011 | Economic Opportunity Institute

From The Olympian:

Bill just wanted a home with a warm bed. Too bad he’s not a chicken, because under Washington state law he’d be getting better treatment.

Bill, a south Puget Sound-area resident, suffers from mental illness and chemical dependency. In his mid-20s, he’s been working on getting treatment and rebuilding his life. Last year he got into a clean and sober house. He was able to pay the $300 monthly room-share rent thanks to Disability Lifeline, a state program that provides modest cash grants to help disabled adults purchase basic necessities such as rent. The home gave Bill stability and a chance to get the help he needs.

Then last fall the state cut monthly Disability Lifeline payments from $339 to $258. Bill could no longer afford to rent his apartment, and began sleeping on the street. Without the support he needed, he relapsed, found himself in jail, then ended up in an intensive inpatient treatment facility.

Now about those chickens: Ten years ago, the state Legislature passed a special tax break to benefit a few dozen factory farms that raise chickens. There’s a tax break on bedding – wood shavings, sawdust, straw, shredded paper – and another tax break for natural gas to heat the barns so the birds can stay warm. All told, these tax breaks cost Washington $4.5 million over the last four years. With the state facing a $5 billion deficit, it’s time for the corporate chicken farms to pay their fair share.

After all, what’s more important – a roof over the head of a fellow human being, or corporate tax breaks to underwrite soft bedding for next week’s casserole? Read more from The Olympian »

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