FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Feb. 14, 2014
Pay raise for caregivers of developmentally disabled voted down by majority Democrats
‘Put your money where your mouth is,’ say lawmakers
A pay raise for caregivers of people with developmental disabilities was rejected today by Democrats who hold the majority in the state House of Representatives.
The pay raise proposal took the form of two amendments offered by Rep. Charles Ross, R-Naches, to a bill that would save the state approximately $45 million in Medicaid funding by applying for a new federal program. The bill directs the state Department of Health and Human Services to refinance Medicaid personal care services – such as those provided to qualifying clients with developmental disabilities – through the federal Community First Choice Option.
Ross’ first amendment called for a $2 per hour raise, which would use approximately half of the $45 million in savings. When that failed, Ross offered another amendment with a $1 per hour raise; it also was voted down.
Ross and Rep. Maureen Walsh, R-Walla Walla, argued on the House floor that people who care for the developmentally disabled should get first priority for funding.
“These are hard-working people that deserve a commitment to help increase their wages after many years without a pay increase. We need to show our appreciation for what they are doing,” Walsh said. “They’re allowing our most vulnerable citizens to stay in homes within our communities and be part of our daily lives. Their work with our most vulnerable citizens keeps them from living in our state’s institutions that can cost up to $200,000 annually! I think this is well worth the extra buck we would pay these workers.”
“The people and who provide care for those with developmental disabilities are incredible,” said Ross. “Their number one focus is the client. They operate on a shoestring budget, and they do it amazingly well. They deserve not only our respect and our thanks, but also adequate support for the tremendous services they provide.”
Both Ross and Walsh noted that many Democrats have voiced support in recent weeks for an increase in the state minimum wage. They cited statistics showing that entry level wages for staffers serving clients with developmental disabilities can be as low as $9.80 per hour in rural counties.
“The minimum wage hike proposals we’ve seen so far are all unfunded mandates – they pass all of the cost on to employers,” Walsh said. “Our proposal is completely paid for – it’s not only common sense, it’s simply fair to caregivers who have not seen a raise in five years and barely make enough now as it is.”
Ross questioned the Democratic chairman of the House Appropriations Committee who said a pay increase for caregivers could wait until next year during budget negotiations.
“Our Democratic governor, Jay Inslee, just proposed $400 million in tax increases this year to pay for teacher raises, and I didn’t hear any complaints from my Democratic colleagues,” he said. “Now all of a sudden when we have access to funds that don’t require new spending or new taxes, the Democrats say ‘let’s wait until next year.’ That’s not acceptable, and it’s not fair.”
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