Democracy doesn’t end after the election cycle is over and all the ballots are counted. We elected the politicians to office and we must hold them accountable. The impact of the 2010 Ballot Initiatives on the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in Washington State means facing a $4.8 billion dollar budget deficit.

With the passage of Tim Eyman’s Initiative 1053, which restored the 67 percent super-majority vote within the State Legislature to create or raise any taxes; and Initiative 1107, which repealed the tax on candy, bottled water, soda, and gum, our state will continue to struggle to save core public services.

Initiative 1107 stripped our state of more than $350 million dollars of funding for core public services over the next five years — on top of the $4.8 billion dollar budget deficit. What does this mean for the Asian American and Pacific Islander community? Here are a few items on the chopping block:

  • Elimination of medical coverage for the General Assistance-Unemployable program, which provides help to people who are unable to work because of disability.
  • Interpreter services for non-English speaking Medicaid clients
  • Washington New Americans Program in the Department of Commerce
  • Department of Social and Health Services’s Naturalization Program
  • The State’s Food Assistance Program
  • A portion of the Apple Health for Kids program

Does this sound familiar? In a Dec. 16, 2009 article in the IE, it cites nearly identical cuts: Basic Health, which provides affordable health insurance to 65,000 people; General Assistance for the Unemployable, which provides help to people who are unable to work because of disability; Health insurance coverage for 16,000 lower income children; Benefits for Medicaid clients; State support for all-day kindergarten in high-poverty areas; Class size reduction efforts; a program that equalizes school funding between wealthy and poor school districts; and Tuition assistance for over 12,000 lower-income students.

Our community cannot afford to sit this legislative session out. We must engage friends, families, neighbors, and ourselves on issues of education, economic development, and health and human services. If we don’t speak up for ourselves, how can we be sure that someone else will?

Next year’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Legislative Day approaches on February 17, 2011. We must come together to urge our elected officials down in Olympia to reconsider the programs and services that would be reduced or completely eliminated that directly impact our community.

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