Opinion Editorial by Rep. Walsh: Caring for the most vulnerable

By Rep. Maureen Walsh
For the Prosser Record-Bulletin

As the Legislature tackles a $900 million shortfall, constituents ask me, “How will you balance the budget?” My typical response is “responsibly.” In our current economic circumstances, that means not increasing taxes on hardworking families. It means prioritizing education, and it means caring for the most vulnerable in our society – folks who cannot take care of themselves.

As a legislator, and in my role as a ranking chair of the Early Learning and Human Services Committee, I am always concerned about how we serve the needs of our folks who are developmentally disabled.

My brother, J.C., is developmentally disabled, so I know firsthand what a family goes through to take care of a family member with a disability. The constant care often leads to family members “burning out,” and the need for assistance or alternative caregivers is very real.

J.C. lives in a home with another gentleman with a disability and they have a caregiver who helps them with their daily needs. Our citizens with disabilities and their families need our help, and as a civil society, it is our moral obligation to provide them with assistance. In the past, we placed children with disabilities into institutional care. We have since come to realize that they not only have a place in our society, but they also teach us to be compassionate and caring.

Our folks with disabilities did not make poor choices in their lives that lead to their need for government assistance. By no fault of their own, they are not able-bodied or able-minded to be capable of earning a living on their own. When I see the expansion of our welfare roles and the increased reliance on government assistance, I worry that our government is becoming more enabling, when we should be promoting policies focused on empowering citizens to be self-sufficient.

The government, funded by hardworking taxpayers, simply cannot be all things to all people. A former author, Adrian Rogers, once said:

“What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is about the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.”

In this tough economy, many people are experiencing hard times. They may have medical challenges, or just lost a job. I encourage you to look out for, and reach out to, your neighbors in need. Please feel free to contact my office about this and any other issues that affect you. It’s my honor to represent you.

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Rep. Maureen Walsh is a Republican from College Place. She has represented the 16th District (which now includes Prosser and Benton City) for more than eight years.