OLYMPIA -- Budget protesters dressed as zombies marched on the Capitol Friday in a demonstration against cuts to social services.
Well, shuffled is probably more accurate. Zombies don't actually move very fast, and these zombies moved so slow that by the time they got to the Capitol steps, the House of Representatives had already approved cuts to a key social service program, the Disability Lifeline, and adjourned until Tuesday. The Senate was out all day.
No matter. They performed a bit of flash mob theater, with their own rendition of the Monster Mash, rewritten into "Monster Slash." They brought their own saxophonist. The dance worked well. The chant -- "What do we want? Brains. When do we want them? Brains." -- didn't.
(Don't tell me it's in keeping with zombies. Efficacy is more important than staying in character.)
Heather Duke, an Olympia resident who joined the group, said she doesn't usually take part in protests but is concerned about the budget cuts and thought this was worth joining.
"I liked the creative forces behind this. We need to be extra creative to get noticed in the face of well-paid lobbyists," she said. "I hope this kind of action will spur other people."
The House, which had returned Friday from two days of recess, spent much of the day in caucus but in the afternoon passed several bills, including major changes to the Disability Lifeline. That program, called General Assistance-Unemployable until last year when the Legislature revamped it, provides health insurance and cash payments to disabled persons ineligible for other programs.
The bill approved by the House would change the name again, splitting Disability Lifeline to focus on different groups of disabled people. It would offer health care to most, but cash payments only to people who would eventually become eligible for a federal program, Supplemental Security Income, and the federal government will reimburse the state for those payments.
Other disabled people in the new system would receive vouchers for housing from money the state would give to the counties to set up local low-income housing programs.
The changes are an attempt to address concerns of some critics over cash payments and duplication of other state programs, Rep. Jeanne Darnielle, D-Tacoma, said. “It’s a leap of faith…that we’re going to be able to pull this off.”
Rep. Gary Alexander, R-Olympia, said the changes were inadequate: “We keep changing the name but we don’t address the underlying problem.” The Senate may have a better plan, he added.
The changes passed 53-36 on a party-line vote and the House adjourned shortly before some three dozen “zombies” arrived from a nearby park where they’d put on their makeup, grabbed signs and shuffled to the Capitol. Unfazed by the fact the Legislature went home for the weekend, they danced and waved signs demanding the standard zombie food, brains. In the end, one protester said it was time to go home because “there are no brains here.”