In WA budget battle, state workers' jobs down to the wire

By Chris Thomas | Jun 28, 2013

Gov. Jay Inslee announced Thursday that state lawmakers finally had reached a two-year budget agreement.

It may not satisfy everyone, but it at least eases the minds of 25,000 state workers, who had faced furloughs or layoffs on Monday if an agreement had not been reached.

This week, there were multiple rumors of last-minute compromises, denied within hours of being announced.

Tim Welch, communications director for the Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE), says the budget may only be a governor's signature away - but the damage has been done to taxpayers' confidence in their lawmakers.

"If you have one part of the legislature that is just unwilling to compromise," he says, "and doesn't realize that, you know, you don't get everything you want - we started in the cold of winter and here we are, going into a 90 degree summer weekend, and there's just no reason for it."

The stalemate involved a coalition of senators that wanted to add policy bills to the budget that normally wouldn't be included in these negotiations or this late in the session, and they became sticking points. The issues included health insurance for part-time workers and changes to the state workers compensation and pension systems.

This week, WFSE added a countdown clock to its website to track the hours until a possible state government shutdown. And Welch says workers snapped pictures of themselves with oversized pink slips, showing which of the many state services they wouldn't be able to perform.

"Dozens and dozens of very poignant photos of folks who would be potentially laid off or furloughed, standing up for services they're trying to save from a shutdown," he points out, "because the potential of a shutdown, whether it happens July 1 or anytime, is devastating."

Typically the state budget is finalized in April or May. Welch adds that averting the shutdown is especially good news for the 6,800 campers who have reservations at state parks over the July Fourth holiday.

 

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