Here we go again. At the end of the last legislative session, the legislature wisely declined to fund initiative 1029, passed by the voters in 2008, as simply unaffordable. In an era of declining revenue and massive cuts to existing social programs, I-1029 made no sense. Its “one-size-fits-all” approach to training, and draconian testing and certification requirements would have erected formidable employment barriers to qualified caregivers and driven many into the unregulated “gray market.” Further reinforcing the obvious is the fact that the state just announced that an additional $1.7 billion in cuts may be necessary in response to ongoing economic worries.
One would think that expensive new initiatives with no funding source would be shelved at this time. But unfortunately, apparently not. Initiative 1163, which will be voted on in November, is nearly identical to I-1029. Like I-1029, I-1163 is being driven by the Service Employees International Union whose members are long term care workers in state run programs, (something the paper cites as an example of a special interest writing law for itself). The union wants to increase worker training and has consistently lobbied for bills that would mandate such training. But a July 18, 2011 editorial in the Seattle Times calls I-1163 “cynical” for recommending that the funds be found through new taxes that would be sure to arouse protest from other special interest groups.
With an $80 million price tag attached to I-1163, we agree with the Times editorial. Training requirements for long term care workers “is a specialized issue that belongs in the Legislature, not on the ballot.”