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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Dozens gather in Spokane to protest looming state government shutdown if budget deal isn’t reached

Jim Dawson, campaign director for Fuse, a progressive group putting pressure on the legislature over budget issues, speaks to a group gathered at Parkview Early Learning Center in Spokane Thursday, June 22, 2017. The gathering was a protest over the impasse between the Washington state Senate and House on the budget, especially concerning education and social services. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

About 60 people gathered in Spokane on Thursday afternoon as part of a statewide series of rallies to plead with the Legislature to pass a budget before the state government is forced to shut down on July 1.

They sat in an outdoor play area at the Parkview Early Learning Center on North Division Street as a series of speakers spoke about the damage that could be done if the government shuts down and eliminates everything from state parks to child support checks. The gathering was hosted by the All In for Action coalition, which includes 50 organizations working to reform Washington’s tax code.

The Legislature is in its third special session and has yet to approve a two-year budget. One of the sticking points has been funding K-12 education.

“It’s pitting our kids and our schools against everything else right now,” said the Rev. Andy CastroLang of the Westminster Congregational United Church of Christ. “It’s total deadlock. They’re not willing to come to the table and negotiate.”

Several speakers noted that the state mailed lay off notices to 32,000 state employees Thursday. The notices are required in case the state does shut down and there is no money to pay state employees.

Melissa Staples, a nurse at Eastern State Hospital, said the Legislature needs to eliminate tax loopholes that let corporations avoid paying their fair share. “They’re abandoning us, and they’re abandoning our patients,” she said.

Luc Jasmin, who owns the Parkview Early Learning Center, said 90 percent of the 100 families who use his day care are on state-paid child care. He worries about what will happen to those children if he has to turn them away because the state will no longer pay for their care after July 1.

“Many of the children in our care are without,” he said. “We are a fundamental foundation to these children.”

Child care is as important as K-12 education, Jasmin said. “There are no party lines when it comes to children,” he said. “If your child care centers close, who will go to work?”

Kay Bowers, an Aging and Long Term Care provider, said the state is responsible for investigating claims of abuse and mistreatment of the elderly. “The phone calls for help won’t stop coming because we’ve been laid off,” she said. “We need to keep our safety net.”

The crowd was urged to contact their legislators to ask them to reach a fair budget deal by June 30. A state budget is a moral document and reflects what we value, said CastroLang.

“We need our Legislature to get back to work and go to the table and negotiate in good faith,” she said. “It’s not us to do this to each other. We’re better than this.”