Serving Franklin County, WA

Poor now?

The legislative session is in full swing, which means a lot of lawmakers are interested in picking winners and losers. Instead of creating equal opportunities, an equality of outcome is being sought. The Washington Future Fund, proposed in Senate Bill 5125 and House Bill 1094, is being heard this morning and later this week.

Senate Democrats write that the bill “seeks to break the cycle of generational poverty by making a one-time deposit of $4,000 into an account for each baby in Washington born into poverty.” Over the years the “baby bonds” will gather interest and can be accessed by the once-poor children to go to college, start a business or put a downpayment on a home.

The bill would find the recipients of taxpayer money through the state’s Medicaid program, Apple Health, and the state would take on a lot of new work administering the program.

Even if the transfer of taxpayer dollars set aside for people born into poverty was enough to bring and keep a person out of poverty (it isn’t), it’s not healthy or wise to suggest to Washingtonians that if once poor, you’re always going to be poor. It’s also not accurate to suggest that once wealthy, wealthy you will always be.

A committee is supposed to review or make recommendations “periodically evaluating the potential of incorporating wealth-based qualification requirements,” says a bill report. In addition to considering whether people from poverty who have families that end up achieving higher incomes should receive funds, will people in families that become poor over one’s lifetime be eligible for the funds? What about poor people who move here? Picking winners and losers is going to be a messy proposition.

Taxpayer safety nets should be reserved for demonstrated need with reasonable guidelines, not predictions of need that might or might not materialize.

– Elizabeth Hovde is the director of the Centers for Health Care and Worker Rights at the Washington Policy Center. Email her at [email protected].


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