[5/30/17] Second Special Session Underway In Olympia

Posted in Local Government & Meetings

The seemingly never-ending budget talks in Olympia have become much more dire for thousands of the state’s employees. As lawmakers start their second special session aimed at coming to an agreement on the budget, state workers are worried about a government shutdown.

Last Friday, the state budget office formally notified AFSCME, the union that represents Washington state employees, that workers could be temporarily laid off if a compromise isn’t reached by July first. Some employees received notice of potential layoffs earlier in the week. Tim Welch with the Washington Federation of State Employees said the notifications hurt morale and the uncertainty hurts state agencies’ ability to plan for the future…

053017 Special Session 1 :10 “…will there not be a budget?”

State lawmakers entered a second special session last week. If lawmakers don’t come to an agreement by the end of June, there will be a government shutdown. The agreement also must satisfy the state Supreme Court’s mandate to come up with a funding model for Washington’s schools.

Representative Mike Steele, of Chelan, says he thinks it comes down to party politics…

053017 Special Session 2 :25 “…the Senate or the House.”

Democrats, who control the House, want to increase taxes on polluters through a carbon tax and originally wanted to increase the capital gains tax, but Governor Jay Inslee took that option off the table. Republicans, who control the Senate, want to raise property taxes in cities such as Seattle and lower them in rural parts of the state. Senate Republicans also want to make cuts to state government and have so far rejected state employees’ new contracts.

Welch said funding schools is clearly the priority, but school children would be undermined by cuts in other places…

053017 Special Session 3 :13 “…our way out of this.”

The state employees’ contract provides a six-percent raise over the next two years to help with retention and recruitment. Welch said there’s a certain irony in a recent decision to increase state lawmakers’ pay by four-percent, even as state employees get notices that they might be laid off.