Legislative Update Letter from Joel Ryan, WSA Executive Director 5/2/13

Dear WSA Members:

It all started so peacefully with a beautiful rendering of Dr. Seuss’s “Cat in the Hat” read by the soothing voice of Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX)…during a 21 hour filibuster. It then moved into a more than 2 week shutdown of the government and we almost defaulted on the debt. (With the possible closure of Head Start programs in WA as very real). But it ended like many of these political showdowns—a short term continuing resolution until January 15th.

Yeah it was a little bitter (sarcasm) but the “agreement” essentially led to no real “agreement” on the size of the government, budget, tax reform, debt, or anything of any substance. It funded the government at current levels and gave the Republicans a small concession that people trying to sign up for health care on the exchange (if they can) would have to go through a prescreening process to determine income eligibility.  And being typical they agreed to meet and talk about things they probably will not agree upon. The Senate Budget Chair, our own Senator Patty Murray, and the House Budget Chair and former Vice Presidential Candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan, are meeting to figure out if a compromise on the budget is possible. Their report if they can agree on anything is due in the middle of December right in time for the holidays. They are likely to talk about entitlement and tax reform and how to pay down the debt. They may find time to discuss ways to stimulate the economy through short term spending projects which could include the Obama Pre-K proposal.

But for Head Start January 15th is really important. Why? Because if you recall the next round of sequestration hits. Most budget experts believe that if the sequester were to take place the top line budget would decline by $21 billion and a good percentage of those cuts would come out of Labor HHS which is where Head Start funding is allocated. Another words (in other words thanks Nancy Williams) if the sequester hits again Head Start will be cut, no doubt about it. There simply will not be enough funding within our funding allocation for Head Start to escape. So for all of us that care about Head Start and children’s programs we need to make sure the sequester does not strike again on January 15th. How? We are devising a few ideas but I think the most important thing for all of us to do is to really localize the impact of current sequester cuts and tell that story to your newspapers in your community and to your members of congress.  NHSA does have an email letter you can send at www.supportheadstart.org but ultimately it is about digging into the sequester and describing the impact and making your voices heard.

Do I think we have a chance? Yeah I do. There are enough Republicans in the House and Senate worried about another round of sequester hitting the military, combined with more moderate and establishment Republicans that do not like the across the board cuts, and of course Democrats who do not support lowering the budget caps for education and health care programs. But the big question I think will be what are the tradeoffs? We should not be discussing how much do we take away from the elderly vs. Head Start. To make the budget math work we all know that it will take some long term and gradual cuts to programs like Social Security and Medicare, but also new revenue from the wealthiest Americans and large corporations.  It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.  For our own purposes, however, our focus needs to be on telling our story—1) Head Start is a terrific program; 2) Look how bad the sequester cuts have been to my program and community; and 3) Turn off the sequester.

I was hoping to end with some kind of rhyming to honor Dr. Seus, but my mind is not quick enough on a Monday to come up with anything witty so I leave that to all of you out there.  Thanks for all the work you are doing and your support.  We look forward to working with you to protect Head Start and ensure that more kids receive help, not fewer.



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