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Morning Wire: Budget submissions, OSPI debate, Political rallies & COVID

The third quarter is almost to a close. What a year 2020 has been already, and yet the division of the general election still lies 42 days ahead of us. RBG’s passing is a reminder of how much things can still shift between now and election day.

These are the months to fight hard for the future we want for our communities. But, when the tempest of November subsides, we’ll need to be just as intentional as a community about healing these rifts, and remembering that we are stronger together than we are apart.  

With help from Michael Goldberg

1. Agencies outline potential cuts 

This is the time of year when agencies deliver to OFM their list of budget requests in anticipation of the governor’s budget in December. This year, agencies have been told to prepare for a potential 15% budget reduction. The HCA is proposing a series of cuts in its 2021-2023 operating budget request, many of which involve the elimination of optional Medicaid benefits. In one decision package, HCA proposes the elimination of adult dental services under Medicaid. Cutting adult dental would result in $26.6 million in general funds savings for the biennium, but would cause nearly 1 million Medicaid members to lose their dental benefit.

The Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF) proposed a reduction of $22.2 million ($15.8 million GF­ savings) in the 2021-­23 biennium to account for proposed reductions. With the submission of DCYF’s budget, Secretary Ross Hunter made his concerns clear: “What we’re worried about is the sadly predictable increase in severe child abuse that we have seen after every other significant economic disruption in the past few decades.”

2. Video: 2020 OSPI General Election Debate

Last Thursday, the Washington State Wire hosted a virtual debate between the general election candidates for Superintendent of Public Instruction: Chris Reykdal and Maia Espinoza. Over 1000 viewers registered to watch the candidates debate a variety of topics related to Washington’s K–12 education system during this time of COVID-19, calls for racial equity, and economic contraction.

Ahead of the debate, Michael Goldberg reported that Espinoza had claimed to have earned a graduate degree that she hadn’t yet completed. In her voters’ guide statement, Espinoza says she has a masters degree in education from WGU. WGU confirmed, however, that the degree has not yet been awarded, a topic about which Espinoza addressed in our debate. You can watch the entire debate here.

3. Political rallies & Safe Start Washington

The Aug. 30th “Skagit Republicans Lincoln/Reagan Day Gala Peaceful Protest” broke an event attendance record with over 410 guests and appeared to be partially, if not entirely, indoors. The Wire covered a Loren Culp rally in Redmond just a few days before. While outdoors, there was nary a mask to be found at the rally. Skagit County is in phase two of Gov. Inslee’s Safe Start recovery plan (“Gather with no more than 5 people outside your household per week”). 

As it’s been months since Safe Start was released, the Wire reached out to DOH for a reminder on what enforcement mechanisms are attached to the Governor’s proclamation. 

“Large gatherings are technically prohibited. The local health officials and the Washington State Board of Health do not have legal authority to enforce criminal laws. This is the jurisdiction of local law enforcement; therefore, it is up to local law enforcement to enforce the guidelines on gatherings and other COVID requirements in the Governor’s proclamations and DOH orders for all activities that are violations of criminal law, including those related to private activities and events.”

4. Assembly Days rundown

In case you missed them, there were several interesting presentations at last week’s legislative Assembly Days. Other than possibly some smaller communities within counties, nowhere in Washington is close to achieving herd immunity, according to a COVID-19 situation report reviewed by the Senate Health & Long Term Care Committee.

In the Joint Transportation Committee, different models are under review in a study looking at the feasibility of a private auto ferry between Washington state and Vancouver. In an update on broadband capital investments to the House Capital Budget Committee, the WPUDA (a Wire sponsor) revealed that PUDs have deployed over 100 Drive-in WiFi sites since the beginning of April. View the full list of hearings here.

5. An interview worth reflecting on

Bill Gates Sr, a giant in the civic engagement space, passed away last week. I had the opportunity to interview him back in 2005 for a low budget public access show I hosted with perhaps three loyal viewers. However, he gave one of the best answers I’ve ever gotten in a career of over 300 interviews of senior civic leaders.

I asked “When they write the history of this time in Puget Sound, not the nation or the world, where you’ll certainly be noted, but for Puget Sound, what would you like them to say about you?”

His answer: “I’m not sure what to say about that.” He looked down at his hands, clasped. He choked up a bit. “I suppose that he was a good father.”

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