Legislative Update from Rep. Fey

Helping our Homeless Youth

This session I am working on legislation that will address a growing problem in Tacoma and across our state: how to better serve young homeless children.

Unfortunately right now there is very little information about this demographic – and what we don’t know is hurting them. That is why I am sponsoring House Bill 1928, which direct the Washington State Institute for Public Policy to collect and report on the data that lawmakers need to develop better policies for these kids. We have a moral obligation to ensure every children has a shot at the American Dream, and this bill is an important first step towards achieving that goal.

Improving the free breakfast program for all students

Experts have been telling us for years that hungry children don’t learn as well in the classroom as those who start off the day with a healthy breakfast. Rep. Hudgins (D-Tukwila) wants to change that by passing a bill that creates a “Breakfast After the Bell” program in Washington state.

Breakfast After the Bell provides free breakfast in the classroom for all students. The goal is to make sure every student has a nutritious meal to start the day and to remove the stigma many low income students feel for taking free breakfast. And by providing the meal at the beginning of class, rather than requiring students to show up early before school starts, the anxiety of being singled out is taken away.

More on the program can be found at Public News Service

Our Budget Problem

The House and Senate approved a strong bipartisan supplemental operating budget that’s on its way to the Governor for his signature. This bill makes small but important adjustments to our current budget. We’re addressing critical needs in mental health and foster services. We’re also paying for the extraordinary costs we incurred with the Eastern Washington wildfires and the Oso landslide. The Legislature will make additional changes to the current budget before the session is over, but the much bigger challenge will be writing the next two-year operating budget.

My colleague and House Appropriations committee chair Rep. Ross Hunter has a good summary of our budget problem here.

The bottom line: in order to balance our budget, we’re likely looking at some budget cuts and some new revenue. Cuts alone will not solve the problem. We’ve cut over $12 billion in services since the recession and the state is paying the price for those cuts. And as you can see in the chart below, about two-thirds of our state budget is protected from cuts, which narrows our options to other major services like higher education, corrections, and human services.

I’ll be working with the budget writers over the next few months to ensure we pass a responsible operating budget that invests in education, strengthens our communities, and protects the safety net.