On a sunny summer day, it’s not unusual to find groups of people gathered at the park.
And the afternoon of June 22 at Heritage Park in Kirkland was no different. But in addition to those who were out enjoying the weather, there was a group of individuals who were at the park to have their voices heard.
With chants claiming “We are Washington!” and “We are one!” and vowing to “Stand up! Fight back!” when asked what to do when working families are under attack, the group was there to send a message to state lawmakers.
As one of a number of day-of-action rallies held across Washington, the event — which was hosted by the All in for Action coalition — was an effort to encourage state legislators to pass a budget by this Friday’s deadline and prevent a government shutdown.
As of the Reporter’s deadline, lawmakers had not passed a budget.
According to an All in for Action press release, the organization was calling on Senate Republicans to “come to the table to negotiate comprehensively on the budget to ensure our state’s economy does not come to a grinding halt and to pass a budget that fully funds important programs local communities depend on as opposed to protecting tax breaks for large corporations and the wealthy.”
In addition to chanting, the rally in Kirkland featured a speakers who shared their concerns.
Paul Benz, co-director for program and policy for the Faith Action Network, was one of those speakers. He said Washington’s tax code is the worst and most regressive in the country, with lower-income populations paying the most.
During his speech, he discussed how a budget — any budget — represents what is important to people.
“Our state budget is a moral document,” he said. “(It) reflects our values.”
The release states that if the state government were to shutdown, some of the impacts include 32,000 state employees not receiving their paychecks; state parks closing down; 2,000 veterans and military family members not receiving PTSD counseling and cuts to support services for foster children and domestic violence transitional services.
According to the release, June 22 marked the first day pink slips were distributed by state agencies as they prepared for a government shutdown.
Another concern that was raised at the rally was how state lawmakers will comply with the Supreme Court’s McCleary decision requiring them to fully fund public education.
“Where is the funding? Where is the funding for our schools?” asked Rebecca Vaux, a founding board member of grassroots organization Washington’s Paramount Duty who also spoke at the rally.
From overcrowded classrooms to a student dying because there was no nurse at the school when she experienced a medical emergency, Vaux shared examples of under-funded schools throughout the state and how students have been affected.
“Carter McCleary was in second grade when the McCleary lawsuit was filed, and last week, Carter McCleary graduated from high school — five years after the Supreme Court affirmed that Washington’s constitutional paramount duty is to amply fund public schools,” Vaux said in the release. “Washington’s leaders cannot kick this can any longer. The legislature must use new, progressive revenues — such as a capital gains tax or close corporate tax loopholes — to fund our schools and other vital services. A vote to increase regressive taxes — such as our sales and property tax — is not acceptable. Don’t fail Washington’s children again.”