The state’s largest union would have you believe Initiative 1163 on the Nov. 8 ballot is about protecting services to vulnerable adults. The truth is, though, Initiative 1163 actually is about the union.
This ballot measure calls for something that already occurs, paying for it with money the state doesn’t have, and solving a problem that doesn’t exist. For those three reasons, The Columbian recommends a “No” vote.
The thrust of I-1163 is a call for background checks and training of those who care for frail seniors and people with disabilities. However, both of those programs are already required by law. Furthermore, strengthening of those programs is scheduled to begin in 2014, postponed until then by a desperate Legislature. Lawmakers continue to wrestle with a deficit that has grown to a projected $1.4 billion, dire enough for Gov. Chris Gregoire to call a special session after Thanksgiving. The Service Employees International Union is pushing I-1163 so that those changes postponed until 2014 can begin sooner, but as the Washington Research Council concludes, “Even if voters believe this is a worthwhile program, we simply cannot afford it.”
Here’s the problem that doesn’t exist: SEIU wants Washingtonians to believe problems in care for the elderly and disabled are widespread. The system is not perfect, but SEIU’s evidence is largely anecdotal and, as we pointed out in a 2008 editorial, Washington’s health care system was named one of the top three in the country by the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Even if there were a problem, I-1163 is an illogical way to solve it. If passed, it would impose an unfunded mandate, estimates of which range from $13 million over six years (according to I-1163 supporters) to $40 million over the next biennium (say the I-1163 opponents.) Regardless of the cost, the money simply isn’t there, as Gregoire has pointed out.