Inslee Announces Equity Package in Washington State Budget
Earlier this week, Gov. Jay Inslee, D-Wash., announced his $365 million equity package that is part of his 2021-2023 state budget proposal. The equity package announcement is part of the governor’s weeklong policy rollout initiatives that will be a part of Washington’s state budget.
In a virtual media conference held Monday with Rep. Melanie Morgan, Rep. Mia Gregerson and Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, Inslee explained his inclusion of the equity package in the budget.
“Consciousness of the nation has been raised in the last several months, against inequity in many forms. In criminal justice, in economy, environment, education and the provision of health care,” said Inslee.
“We have a moral mandate here in Washington state to acknowledge these hard truths, [to] lay a solid foundation to correct these long-term injustices.”
“As I previously said, Black Lives Matter,” continued Inslee. “Our commitment to equity also extends to indigenous and all people of color in our state.
“I firmly believe that Washington state is an anti-racist state. I will be taking actions to hold our state government to that.”
Inslee continued, “So now is the time to implement real change that will have a positive impact on the lives of those most impacted by this [coronavirus] crisis.
“Today, we are committed to making investments to help all Washington communities thrive, especially communities of color that have been marginalized for too long.
“These proposals are important steps in the right direction, but we acknowledge the massive work that needs to be done to right the decades of inequity,” stated Inslee.
As part of the $365 million equity package, Inslee plans to establish Juneteenth as an official legal holiday on June 19 in recognition of, “the significance of America’s history of slavery, the vestiges of which continue the oppression from institutional racism that remain today.”
In addition to recognizing Juneteenth, the governor plans to set aside $2.5 million to fully fund and task Washington’s Equity Office, which was established earlier this year by the state legislature.
According to the equity policy brief, the equity office will, “help the state develop language access requirements, remove barriers to accessing state services and decrease inequities across state government.”
With the goals of promoting systemic and cultural changes in Washington, the office will be staffed by eight members who will help state agencies, “develop and implement their own diversity, equity and inclusion plans.”
To make sure that the equity office’s actions are aligned with the state’s equity and inclusion plans, funding for the equity office will also go towards the creation of online diversity dashboards that will monitor the office’s progress.
In conjunction with the creation of an equity office, the equity package also sets aside $26 million for the creation of an independent office that will investigate police use of force and prosecution.
“After the deaths of George Floyd and Manuel Ellis earlier this year, the governor created a task force to recommend how the state can be more accountable and improve the way it investigates police use of excessive force,” reads the policy brief.
“These recommendations would ensure that such investigations are fair, thorough and independent.”
According to Inslee, the office will conduct these independent investigations through, “an antiracism lens.”
Besides the creation of oversight offices, the package also includes continued funding for the Washington COVID-19 Immigrant Relief Fund, a state-sponsored fund that will aid Washington’s undocumented immigrants who, due to their immigration status, could not access relief programs amid the pandemic.
“It’s important that we work just as hard to serve a crucial Washington community that works every day to serve their neighbors,” Inslee said. “Immigration status cannot be what stands between a person and shelter, or food, or safety. This fund has and will continue to fund much needed relief.”
Approximately $10 million will be added to the fund, following up on the previous $62.6 million that was already committed to the fund by the governor.
The policy brief also outlines other equity priorities and legislative efforts set by Inslee’s office, including a proposed ban on insurance companies using credit scoring as part of their insurance ratings, as well as line items for grants and capital bonds to go toward community-based organizations.