EDITORIAL: Initiative 1163: We say no

October 20, 2011 

It sounds like a good idea -- increase the amount of training for long-term caregivers who provide in-home services to the elderly and disabled.

And while you're at it, beef up the screening process required to obtain a state license. It sounds so good, in fact, that voters overwhelming approved an almost identical measure two years ago.

But the feel-good initiative fails to address two key issues -- how to pay for it and whether it's needed.

An $80 million price tag comes with the measure -- much of it because home workers will collect their paychecks from taxpayers during training.

It's irresponsible to add this expense to the state budget at a time when declining revenues are forcing lawmakers to slash social services.

Opponents to the measure point out that the Legislature cut more than $2 billion from the Department of Social and Health Services during the last session.

Medical services and in-home care to seniors and adults with disabilities took a $500 million hit. Vision, hearing aids and dental care were eliminated entirely.

And state revenues continue to fall. Gov. Chris Gregoire has called a special session later this year to cut spending even further.

Tried and true programs that have proven effective are likely to be slashed more or completely eliminated. It's the wrong time for adding questionable expenditures.

Washington already requires a state background check and 34 hours of training.

It's true, some of the state's most vulnerable citizens have suffered at the hands of in-home caregivers, but proponents haven't shown that additional training or more extensive background checks would have prevented the abuses.

Increased state oversight would make more sense, but if anything, the diversion of $80 million from existing programs will make it more difficult to keep tabs on caregivers.

The Herald editorial board recommends voters reject Initiative 1163.

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