Health care workers protest proposed budget cuts

OLYMPIA -- Throngs of nurses and mental health care workers gathered at the state capitol Thursday to deliver a message to lawmakers.

The demonstrators say proposed health care cuts are going to become costly as the uninsured turn to emergency rooms to get their health care.

"This is going to grow. It's in a major crisis. Our patients are being affected. Our hospitals are being affected. We can't keep bringing cuts to the most vulnerable," said Susan Tekola, a nurse at Harborview Medical Center.

The demonstrators spoke to lawmakers about how the cuts could put people in need out on the street, and many were receptive to that message.

"We're all going to suffer and people have to see that as a public safety issue," said Rep. Reuven Carlyle.

One proposed source of revenue is Gov. Chris Gregoire's idea of implementing a half-cent increase in the sales tax, but that would need to be passed by a public vote.

That idea doesn't sit well with some Republican lawmakers, who argue a tax increase would hurt business.

"A sales tax increase is going to go right after that savings, go right after their pocketbooks and take steps backwards, and we need to continue to take steps forward," Sen. Janea Holmquist said.