A few wins for seniors in WA legislature

By Chris Thomas | Jul 08, 2013

Washington legislators finally left Olympia last week after 153 days and two contentious special sessions.

In another tight budget year, when they leave a program alone instead of cutting its funding, that's considered progress.

Lower-income people who receive in-home care did not have their hours of service cut. And the Kinship Caregiver program that helps grandparents raising grandchildren was spared from closure.

Ingrid McDonald, advocacy director, AARP Washington, said it was also encouraging that lawmakers agreed to look ahead, with a brand new Committee on Aging and Disability.

"This will be actually a committee that will meet over the course of two years and think hard about how we prepare for the age wave on the horizon. And how we can pass good policy that maybe bends the cost curve of some of the demands, but creates an age-friendly society."

With the state's decision to expand Medicaid, about 40,000 people in Washington in their 50s and early 60s will gain access to health insurance that they didn't have before, she added.

However, McDonald said, AARP was disappointed in lawmakers' unwillingness to raise new revenue. A couple of sizable tax loopholes were closed, but most were either left alone or extended. In fact, some new exemptions were created - although she explained that the bill included important new rules.

"Every new tax loophole or tax exemption will be required to have along with it an intent statement, of what it's supposed to achieve, goals and metrics for whether it's achieving that, and an expiration date," she said.

Overall, McDonald said, Gov. Jay Inslee promised that the Legislature would find ways to increase education funding without making major cuts to social services - and in the end, that's what the budget delivered.

In Olympia, they'll be at it again in just six months.

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