Making services harder to access is just as good for budget-writers as it is bad for the needy.
That explains the overwhelming excitement from all quarters of the Legislature to the news of the surprising decline in caseloads. As narcissist hero Ed Murray said:
“If you use the governor’s budget as a framework … two-thirds of that problem has basically gone away,” Murray said.
Gone away to rot and die.
As strong proponents of the Zarelli/Murray principle of cut early, cut often, sharpen the scissors, and cut again, you might think that we at Undead Olympia would be less than happy with a projection of need that seems likely to lead to hundreds of millions less in cuts this year.
But here’s the trick: the $340 million in “caseload savings” doesn’t really mean less to cut — it just means that more was cut last time than even we had foreseen! In essence, the new restrictions, co-pays, and other niggling rules put on a variety of programs were even more of a roadblock between needy people and public services than anyone had lucid-dreamed.
Of course this was received as great news: it’s a windfall of thousands and thousands of poor suckers not getting healthcare and other services they need — and that even the Legislature expected they deserved. When you make services harder to access, the state spends less money, and the needy get less from government. Who can oppose a windfall like that?
(As a fun side note, part of the caseload windfall also came from school enrollment ticking down, which means less money is slated to go to schools — all while both parties wrestle to declare themselves the bigger badder friend of school-funding and more strident enemy of teacher-funding).
So in a state where by all accounts there is great need for healthcare, housing, food assistance, and other basics of mortal life, the Legislature is about to use the fact that it cut more than it realized last session as an excuse to cut still more this session, and give up on pursuing revenue, tax reform, or anything else. Some may consider that less a windfall and more a foul wind.
Not Senator Mike Hewitt though:
“It looks like a gift from heaven,” the Republican Senate leader said.
No word on whether the TNT pointed out to Senator Hewitt that “heaven” lies in the opposite direction.