As we all know, the economy is taking its toll on everyone, and on all levels of government. Not surprisingly, low-income immigrants, refugees and our community are being disproportionately affected by government budget cuts.

Although they pay the same state taxes as other state residents, and despite the tremendous economic contributions of immigrants and refugees to the state economy, whether through small business creation, the high tech, agricultural, medical or service sectors, to name a few, programs targeted to assist low-income immigrants and refugees are being slashed or eliminated.

In 1996 when welfare reform passed, President Clinton noted over 40 percent of the savings came from denying legal immigrants public benefits, and that this was not good public policy. Immigrants and refugees comprise two-thirds of our Asian Pacific Islander community, so any measure affecting them affects our community disproportionately.

The Asian Pacific Islander Coalition (APIC) formed then to ensure that safety net services denied at the federal level would continue to be provided by the state, so that our community would have equal access to these services. These and other state programs are now slated for 100 percent elimination from the state budget as a result of the Governor’s decision to enact 6.3 percent across the board cuts. Naturalization services, food assistance and medical interpretation, for instance, were wholly eliminated rather than cut by 6.3 percent. Funding for healthcare for undocumented immigrant children has also been eliminated. Job training and placement for limited English proficient immigrants and refugees has been significantly reduced, as has the disability lifeline which helps people with disabilities who cannot work. These cuts are not cost effective. The cost of cutting them will outweigh the benefits, but the list of devastating cuts goes on.

APIC will fight these disproportionate cuts. Will you help? You can call the Legislative Hotline at 1-800-562-6000 and leave a message for the Governor asking her to protect the vulnerable and not to cut these programs. While you’re at it, you can leave a message for House Speaker Frank Chopp, Rep. Kelly Linville, Senate Majority Leader Lisa Brown and Sen. Margarita Prentice. They will be key decision-makers when the legislature convenes.

You can also make voting decisions that will help preserve current and future revenue sources for the state. APIC joins other coalitions in urging you to:

VOTE NO on ballot measures 1053 (Tim Eyman initiative requiring 67 percent approval of legislature to raise and create new taxes), 1082 (allows private insurers to compete with public workers’ compensation system), 1100 & 1105 (privatize hard liquor sales), 1107 (ends tax increases on candy, soda, bottled water). These initiatives will dramatically worsen the budget crisis and force even more draconian cuts of millions of dollars to vital services when the safety net is needed most.

VOTE YES on ballot measures 1098 (reforms our unfair tax system and generates funding for education and healthcare through a limited income tax on the wealthiest 3 percent of state residents, reduces property taxes and small business B&O taxes) and R52 (allows state to sell bonds to fund energy savings retrofit to schools).

As the saying goes, when the going gets tough, the tough get going. We must act now to protect the most vulnerable people in our community. Their lives and our public health and safety depend on it. You can join us by making a call, voting as above on ballot measures, and supporting Asian Pacific American Legislative Day on February 17. We’ve done it before, and with your help, we can do it again.

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