Advisory Council Members Make Some Noise on "Quiet" Lobby Day

State Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos (37th District—Seattle), at left, welcomed Gigi Meinig and Diane Snell to her office.

It's an annual tradition and a crucial opportunity: A group of Advisory Council members went down to Olympia for Senior Lobby Day on Thursday, February 20. They met with their legislators to discuss several bills and funding concerns. And they got to hear Governor Jay Inslee and others talk about the needs of Washington’s older adults, the challenges and opportunities facing the state's long-term care systems, and many serious concerns about Washington's regressive tax system.

Diane Snell and George Dicks enjoyed a beautiful day at our state capitol.

This trip was somewhat quieter than the previous four years. No major cuts to state-funded older adult programs were on the table—a big relief to Lobby Day participants. The state capitol's marble halls seemed a bit less crowded as well.

However, no one felt complacent—Advisory Council members highlighted the serious damage that had been done through cuts to the state Senior Citizens Services Act, Office of Public Guardianship, and other programs in recent years. They emphasized the need not just to restore these cuts, but to increase their funding in line with the huge expected growth of the older population. Level funding is as bad as a cut under these circumstances.

Also, one reason for the "quiet" session is the ongoing House-Senate stalemate over critical issues such as transportation. Advisory Council members stressed the importance of a balanced transportation package that adequately supports mass transit. Many vulnerable adults rely on public transportation to get to appointments and run errands. The legislators they spoke to did not express much optimism for a transportation deal this year.

Lastly, Advisory Council members highlighted some of the opportunities which arose in this session. They thanked House members for passing the Community First Choice Options bill, which will allow the state to receive higher federal funding for Medicaid long-term care and developmental disability programs. And they thanked them for passing a bill to study innovative long-term care financing solutions. The hope is that the state will create some type of long-term care insurance program to help Washingtonians better prepare for retirement, and ease the pressure on Medicaid.

ADS Advisory Council members Molly Holmes, Sue Shaw, Kaylene Moon and George Dicks participated in the Washington Senior Lobby conference off-campus before heading over to the capitol to meet with legislators from across King County.

In summary, this Lobby Day may have seemed "quiet" in some ways, but with all of the challenges and opportunities facing Washington's adult services system, it felt a bit like the eye of the storm.

Contributor Doug Ricker is a planner with Aging and Disability Services (ADS), the Area Agency on Aging for Seattle-King County. Among many duties, he provides staff support to the ADS Advisory Council’s advocacy committee. For more information, visit www.agingkingcounty.org/advisory-council.

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