Benton Franklin Health District officials estimate the district will take about a $600,000 financial hit under the proposed supplemental state budget released by House Democrats this week.
The Democrats' budget eliminates $9 million in public health funding that flows from the state Department of Health to local jurisdictions and proposes to partially replace it with liquor sales tax distributions and by offering local governments additional tax options.
The latter left the six Benton and Franklin county commissioners who serve on the Benton Franklin Health Board frustrated that the state is cutting funding for programs the state requires them to provide while asking them to tax local residents more.
"We should sue," said Board Chairman Jim Beaver of Benton County. "The Legislature has to do what it has to do. ... I know what they have to do, and what they (actually) do. I think it's time they do what they're supposed to do."
Beaver noted that the recent state Supreme Court decision in which the court ruled the state wasn't meeting its obligation to pay for education, and drew an analogy to public health programs that are mandated by state law.
He suggested sending a letter to Health Secretary Mary Selecky outlining the relevant laws and asking the state not to cut money for functions it requires the district to perform.
District Administrator JasonZaccaria said his staff is looking at scenarios for how to handle the cuts, which under the Democrats' budget would go into effect Jan. 1, 2013.
But Zaccaria also is waiting to see what the Senate proposes in its supplemental budget, which is yet to be released.
The legislative session is set to finish March 8.
w Also Wednesday, the health district board approved a lease with nonprofit Grace Clinic for the district's former office building on Canal Drive in Kennewick.
The lease calls for Grace Clinic to pay market rent of $60,000 per year, but allows the clinic to offset the rental amount with the value of improvements the clinic makes to the building and health care services it provides.
Grace Clinic offers free medical, dental and mental health care to people with incomes below 200 percent of federal poverty guidelines, or less than $44,700 a year for a family of four.
Clinic Board President Mark Brault showed the board architectural drawings for planned renovations to the building and how the space will be laid out for medical, dental, optometry and mental health services, as well as a multipurpose room where the clinic plans to start an exercise program for patients with diabetes.
Brault said the clinic hopes to be operating on Canal Drive by June.