Featured Speakers

The featured speakers at Budget Matters 2020 represent perspectives and wisdom from across Washington state. Learn a little bit more about each one here.

Welcome and opening remarks

Jennifer Tran (she/her)
Research and Policy Director, Washington State Budget & Policy Center.

Misha Werschkul (she/her)
Executive Director, Budget & Policy Center.

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (she/her)
Representative, United States Congress.
Elected in 2016, Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal is now serving her second term in Congress representing Washington’s 7th District, which encompasses most of Seattle and its surrounding areas. She is the first South Asian American woman elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and one of only 14 naturalized citizens currently serving in the United States Congress. In Congress, Representative Jayapal has been a leader on immigration, including fighting the Trump Administration’s inhumane policies of separating children from their parents and crafting legislation to help expand legal immigration to America. She has also championed legislation to address income inequality, such as the $15 minimum wage and expanded collective bargaining rights for workers.  She has worked extensively on healthcare issues as the lead sponsor of the Medicare for All bill in the House, and she is the author of the College for All Act, which would ensure every American has access to higher education.  She has authored other landmark pieces of progressive legislation including the Dignity for Detained Immigrants Act and the National Domestic Workers Bill of Rights.  She has also prioritized legislation to transition our economy to 100% clean energy and address the crisis of climate justice.

Opening Panel: “Where we go from here”

Paola Maranan (she/her) – Moderator
Owner, ArcBend Consulting. Seattle, WA.
Paola helps leaders and organizations move forward their commitment to racial equity. A seasoned non-profit leader, Paola has spent more than 30 years fighting for just policies for kids and families in Washington. She served as Executive Director of Children’s Alliance where she helped build a racial equity-focused public policy practice and integrated a commitment to racial equity into every facet of the organization. Paola’s support for hardwiring racial equity into child advocacy organizations across the country was recognized by her peers in 2019 with the Florette Angel Award from The Partnership for America’s Children. She continues to support organizations through her practice, ArcBend Consulting.

Abigail Scholar (she/her/ella)
Executive Director, Central Washington Justice For Our Neighbors and Steering Commitee Member, Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network. Walla Walla, WA.
Abigail has worked as part of the coordinating committee of the Walla Walla Immigrant Rights Coalition, she is a founding member of the Spokane Immigrant Rights Coalition, the Tri-Cities Immigrant Rights Coalition and is a member of Washington Immigrant Solidarity Network and sits in the steering committee for their bond fund. She is also on the steering committee for All In for Washington. She has worked in community organizing for a number of years and she has extensive experience in developing community led programs and supporting leaders within the community to advance capacity building. 

Pamela Duncan (she/her)
CEO, Metropolitan Development Council. Tacoma, WA.
Pamela brings more than 30 years of professional and personal work in community building and economic development, education and grant making in the nonprofit and public arena. She has provided oversight of housing and commercial building renovation and development, taught at the both high school and higher education level, and been involved in grant making for more than 15 years. Duncan is very committed to the well-being of young people, especially those experiencing homelessness. She is passionate about the promotion of equity, and most recently has been engaged in facilitating workshops with community providers to create a better understanding and appreciation for the dismantling of institutional and individual racism. Duncan is an avid hiker and gardener. A self-proclaimed life-long learner, she is likely to be found somewhere with an apple and a book.

Toni Lodge (she/her)
CEO, The Native Project. Spokane, WA.
Toni Lodge is an enrolled citizen of the Turtle Mt. Chippewa Tribe of North Dakota but has lived in Washington State for the past 40 years. A long time Indian community activist, Ms. Lodge helped establish and build the NATIVE Project in 1989, an urban Indian Health Services Clinic that provides medical, dental, pharmacy, nutrition, licensed mental health and substance use disorder services, prevention programs and culture programs to members of over 300 tribes who live in Spokane and to people of all ethnicities. Ms. Lodge has been the CEO of NATIVE Project for 27 years. Toni currently represents Eastern WA on Gov. Inslee’s Safe Start Advisory group as Washington moves forward in reopening and recovering from the effects of COVID-19. Ms. Lodge is a passionate and vocal advocate for equity issues and dismantling systemic racism; building capacity and access to care for people of color; developing culturally specific medical and behavioral health systems of care; preserving Native culture; and, for leaving the planet a healthy place for our relatives, her children, and especially her 10 grandchildren.

Breakout session: Equitable revenue

Andy Nicholas (he/him)
Senior Fellow, Budget & Policy Center.

Bennet Vining (she/her)
Lead Organizer, All In For Washington.
Bennet Vining is the Lead Organizer at All in for Washington. Her focus is youth empowerment among Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) communities. The grounding principles in her advocacy is rooted in economic and environmental justice as well as accessibility to education. Born and raised in Seattle, Bennet experienced rapid changes and displacement in her community which has peaked her interest in policy.

Evan Walker (he/him)
Policy Analyst, Budget & Policy Center.

Senator Manka Dhingra (she/her)
Washington State Senator.

Manka Dhingra is a Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney with the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. As Chair of the Therapeutic Alternative Unit, Manka helped develop and oversee the Regional Mental Health Court, the Veterans Court, and the Community Assessment and Referral for Diversion program. Outside the courtroom, she is a community leader and anti-domestic violence advocate on the Eastside. Manka was elected in November 2017 to serve in the state Senate by constituents of the 45th Legislative District. Her priorities are to address the deficits in education funding, mental health, and violence prevention, and to protect the rights of women. Prior to being elected, Manka was a co-founder of Chaya, an organization that assists South Asian survivors of domestic violence and led the organization’s work to end systemic violence through education and prevention. She also serves on the board of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Eastside.


Breakout session: Cash assistance

Chevon Powell (she/her)
Representing Ventures.
Chevon Powell is the founder of Golden Bricks Events (GBE). In 2018 GBE repositioned to focus on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the outdoors through consulting, event management, and ownership of signature events such as the Refuge Outdoor Festival– an annual outdoor recreation and music camping experience geared toward Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC). Powell is an experienced event pro and social entrepreneur whose goal is to create ventures for social change. She has executed numerous events; from 20k person corporate meetings to community centered outdoor gatherings. Powell has undertaken the challenge of getting 10k people of color outdoors by the end of 2021. She is a graduate of the Ventures Business Basics program.

Emily Vyhnanek (she/her)
Working Families Tax Credit Campaign Manager, Budget & Policy Center.

Senator Joe Nguyen (he/him)
Washington State Senator.
Senator Joe Nguyen’s experiences growing up in an immigrant community as the son of Vietnamese refugees and being raised by a single mother informs much of his service today. Since being elected, Sen. Nguyen has used his time in office to advocate for those who have been historically underrepresented, and to push for progressive legislation that provides services to those in need. He prioritizes criminal justice reform, environmental health, and progressive tax reform. Sen. Nguyen is the vice chair of the Senate Human Services, Reentry & Rehabilitation Committee and a member of the Transportation Committee, the Rules Committee and the Environment, Energy & Technology Committee. Sen. Nguyen was born in White Center, raised in Burien and currently lives in West Seattle with his wife Tallie, a former special education teacher in the Highline Public School District, and their three young children.

Maya Manus (she/her)
Advocacy and Civic Engagement Coordinator, Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle.
Maya Manus is the Advocacy and Civic Engagement Coordinator at the Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle. Her focus is on how to engage the community register to vote, complete the census and know that local politics matter. The focus of her advocacy is around economic security, equitable legal systems, and access to education for all. Maya has been interested in local politics since her undergrad at Washington State University and is currently studying at Seattle University School of Law.

Breakout session: Community investments

Josephine Tamayo Murray (she/her)
Executive Director, Communities of Concern Commission.
Josephine Tamayo Murray is currently Communities of Concern Commission Executive Director.  Prior to this role she was the Catholic Community Sercies of Western Washington Vice-President for Public Policy, and Agency Director for Catholic Community Services King County. With more than 40 years in social and housing services in the for-profit, public and non-profit sectors, Ms. Tamayo Murray has been an advocate in the development of affordable housing and supportive services programs that assist elders, people with disabilities, low-income and homeless persons and families. Currently, she serves on the Board of Directors of Marymount Association for Senior Housing.  Ms. Tamayo Murray is a trustee for the George P. Hardgrove Foundation.  She previously served the City of Seattle on the Housing Levy Oversight Committee and the Public-Private Partnership Process to review potential public-private partnership projects the City considered.


Kamau Chege (he/him)
Director, Washington Census Alliance.
Kamau Chege is the Director of the Washington Census Alliance, a state-wide coalition of over 90 organizations and tribes led by and working in communities of color to ensure fair representation and equitable funding in Washington State through and beyond the census.  

Liz Olson (she/her)
Senior Policy Analyst, Budget & Policy Center.

Closing remarks and calls to action

Jan Harrison (she/her)
Board Vice President, Washington State Budget & Policy Center Board of Directors.
Jan is an equity-driven leader dedicated to building healthy and productive communities and organizations through the application of critical race theory and impact-driven philanthropy. She focuses on creating institutional change and serving the needs of historically marginalized populations through innovative, data-driven policies that ensure every person has the opportunity to live a healthy, productive life regardless of race, gender or culture. 

Jennifer Tran (she/her)
Research and Policy Director, Budget & Policy Center.

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