The 2019 Legislative Session came to a close Sunday in Olympia. Here's a short report on the outcomes of the issues that you've been advocating on with us.
Family and Community Health
In a great step forward for health equity this year, the Legislature passed SB 5274, establishing a COFA Islander Dental Care Program. This new bipartisan law makes no cost dental coverage available to adults from Compact of Free Association nations (which include the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau) residing in Washington, who are income-eligible for Medicaid (below 138% of the Federal Poverty Level). Full-family, comprehensive health coverage promotes children's health. Read more about this victory for families on our website.
The bill to authorize dental therapy statewide, HB 1317, advanced further than it has ever before. Dental therapy stands to improve children and family health by increasing access to quality, community-based dental care for all Washingtonians. While the bill did not become a law this legislative session, we are grateful for our partners in advocacy in community and in the legislature. We look forward to building on this year's gains in the 2020 legislative session to continue our fight to close oral health disparities via enacting statewide dental therapy. To stay up to date with our continued efforts on Dental Therapy, sign up here.
In the 2019 legislative session, we developed and advocated for promising policies intended to ensure more children and families have the opportunities for healthy development and quality learning before they reach kindergarten. Your advocacy throughout the session helped to advance these efforts and enhanced the advocacy of many partners and policymakers.
The legislature made some progress on expansion of access to high-quality child care and pre-k. In an effort to stabilize the market for existing providers, the state is increasing the Working Connections Child Care reimbursement rates starting July 1st. However, additional investments will be needed to move beyond stabilization and truly expand access to quality child care. While the legislature also funded 1100 new ECEAP slots, increasing flexibility for enrollment for three and four-year olds who could benefit most from comprehensive preschool, this number still falls significantly short of our expectations and those of our partners.
While early learning investments were lower than hoped for, a promising piece of legislation from this year's session is the passage of the Child Care Access Now Act, HB 1344, which will require the state to develop a detailed plan to address the barriers of access to high-quality child care for Washington's families - while also preserving and expanding the diversity of the early care and education workforce.
While it’s important to celebrate these steps forward, early learning investments remain pitifully low, about 1 percent of state spending. The outcomes in early learning fell short of our expectations and lawmakers have much work to do to advance racial equity and create the opportunities Washington's kids deserve before they enter kindergarten.
Revenue and the Budget
We made progress on revenue in that both the House and Senate proposed packages for new revenue, including a capital gains tax and a more progressive Real Estate Excise Tax.
We are disappointed that the Legislature did not fix our upside down tax code and adopt a capital gains tax. Our advocacy helped create new revenue from a more progressive Real Estate Excise Tax. The legislature’s failure to enact a capital gains tax is a significant missed opportunity to set a better path for children and families and our shared future.