Inslee cuts support for nursing homes after preserving state-worker pay hikes

Targeting facilities at epicenter of COVID-19 pandemic in state is ‘heartless,’ Ericksen says

OLYMPIA – As if there weren’t already enough coronavirus-related issues needing immediate attention from state lawmakers, says state Sen. Doug Ericksen, add this to the list: Gov. Jay Inslee’s administration is cutting Medicaid reimbursements to nursing homes, which have been hit harder by COVID-19 than any other sector in Washington.

“For months the governor has been telling the people they need to do as he says if they want to protect their grandmas and grandpas from being exposed to COVID-19,” said Ericksen. “Now his administration is taking money away from long-term facilities and crippling their ability to provide services that save and extend the lives of so many grandmas and grandpas.

“It’s not just another example of the governor’s double standards – it’s a heartless thing to do at a time like this.”

The veteran Whatcom County lawmaker noted Inslee’s assault on funding for nursing homes comes one month after about a billion dollars’ worth of new spending commitments took effect. Those included hundreds of millions of dollars to give a second straight pay raise to tens of thousands of state workers.

“It’s a matter of priorities, and the governor’s are misguided. The state budget is in big trouble because so much economic activity has been lost. The answer is to pull back on spending, but Governor Inslee has very little experience doing that,” Ericksen said. “What’s needed is for the Legislature to meet in special session and make precise, thoughtful reductions. Unlike the governor, we can literally reopen the budget and reduce lower-priority spending in favor of protecting support for long-term care and other services that are vital to vulnerable people.

“There is no telling how much damage the pandemic response will ultimately do to what had been a very strong state economy. Although certain members of the Legislature are already viewing this situation as an opportunity to pursue new taxes, including an income tax, I and other Republicans who have served through previous recessions know the smart approach is to focus on the core priorities of government and adjust the budget accordingly. That’s the best way to protect critical services, shield taxpayers and help the economy rebound.”

Ericksen said a special session also would allow legislators to weigh in regarding the state’s constitutional duty to provide basic education, as well as direct the spending of pandemic-related funding received from the federal government. He said Inslee has not engaged Republicans directly about their calls for a special session but recently claimed the state has enough money to get through until the Legislature’s regular session next year.

“Even after he locked down our state, the governor still couldn’t say ‘no’ to spending of tens of millions to sidestep a labor-related ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court, and millions more to expand hot breakfasts for inmates and build more electric-vehicle charging stations for state workers to use. Should the grandmas and grandpas across our state lose access to long-term care because of that?”