A group of Eastern Washington University students have begun a weeklong protest on the Cheney campus to draw attention to imminent spending cuts by the state Legislature, now beginning its second week of a special session.
The protesters, largely comprised of students in the School of Social Work and Human Services, are calling on lawmakers to consider eliminating millions of dollars worth of tax loopholes in order to soften the coming blow to education, health care and social services.
“It’s easy to make these cuts to our vulnerable population because their voices are so seldom heard,” said Althea Jamison, an EWU senior in interdisciplinary studies and an organizer of the campus protest called “Cuts Have Consequences.”
The protesters have pitched tents throughout the campus to symbolize tent cities that they say will be needed to shelter the newly homeless as a result of further funding cuts.
Lawmakers must offset a projected revenue shortfall in the next two years of about $5 billion. None of the proposals offered in the state House, the Senate or by the governor balances the operating budget by raising taxes or closing tax loopholes. To do so would take a voter-mandated two-thirds majority of both legislative chambers.
The protesters called for eliminating tax breaks for out-of-state shoppers, private jet owners and members of country clubs.
They contrasted these exemptions or credits with expected cuts in higher education and financial aid for students, children’s health care, disability and other human services.
Proposed cuts to higher education are expected to force tuition hikes again at state universities including increases of as much as 11.5 percent at EWU.
“These cuts will have a major impact, and people need to know about them,” said Melissa Eastman, a junior in social work picketing Monday outside Monroe Hall on campus.
The protest continues through Sunday.