Photo caption: Debadutta Dash (right foreground) speaks at a recent press event. Photo credit: Christina Twu.

Community leaders and family advocates gathered in Renton April 11th at the Compass Veterans Center to call for a better approach to the state budget. To the dismay of more than 40 groups serving communities of color, the state Senate budget proposal released earlier this month doesn’t close a single tax loophole, making “insufficient investments in education at the expense of vital services,” said Lacy Steele, president emeritus of the Seattle-King County Chapter of National Association of the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).

Services and programs on the Senate chopping block include Working Connections Child Care assistance for thousands of working parents, programs for homeless families on top of cuts to the Housing Trust Fund that invests in low-income housing, elimination of cash assistance for disabled adults and elimination of services to help low-income families build long-term financial stability. All of these cuts would disproportionately hurt families of color, said advocates.

Paola Maranan, executive director of the Children’s Alliance, said that a harmful cut to Working Connections Child Care disrupts building an early learning foundation that puts children “on solid footing for the rest of their lives.”

“It’s easier, more effective and less expensive to equip kids with these skills early than to play catch-up later on,” Maranan noted. “Cutting Working Connection Child Care means destabilizing the learning environment of at least 4,000 children at a vulnerable moment in their lives.”

More than 40 groups serving communities of color sent a letter to to the Legislature to pass a budget that will “invest in communities of color, embracing equity through funding education, the safety net and other priorities that … move families of color onto a path of prosperity.”

Debadutta Dash, co-chair of nonprofit group Washington State and India Trade Relations Action Committee, said closing tax loopholes is critical to a more  equitable Washington.

“Our future depends on our state’s ability to meet the needs of a diversifying population actively participating in the expanding global economy, promoting state tourism and to adequately fund the programs and services our communities rely on,” he said.

Though the Senate budget restores funding for the State Food Assistance program to serve an estimated 14,000 children in immigrant families whose benefits were halved in July, “there’s more room to go,” said Maranan.

“There is a clear and stark choice,” she said. “Do we invest in a young woman who is trying to be a good parent, who has sought education, who is trying to move forward and needs a little bit to get there, or do we perpetuate these tax breaks that don’t do anything for the common good?”

As of April 15th, two weeks remain of the regular 105-day legislative session.

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