State employee pay hikes continue to be a major sticking point for negotiations between the Democrat-controlled state House and the Republican-majority state Senate – though, of course, the fact the House Democrats still have not yet actually passed a budget is the main thing holding up negotiations. After all, how can you negotiate when one side hasn’t settled on its position yet – you can’t exactly meet in the middle if there are not two end points, right?
Unfortunately for the taxpayers of Washington, House Democrats followed Jay Inslee’s budget lead from last December and proposed a $39 billion spending plan that would implement a whopping $1.5 billion in new taxes for the 2015-17 cycle. The tax hikes—which Democrats do not have a majority to really vote for in the House—would increase to $2.4 billion during the next budget cycle.
The problem is that Democrats need the historic tax increases in order to reward their million-dollar campaign donors with pay raises—the Washington Education Association, the Washington Federation of State Employees and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU). That generous figure is a result of Inslee’s secret negotiations with the top union executives who supported his campaign – which looks like a good return on their investment in him if they get the money.
In total, under the Democrats’ House spending wish list plan, state employee salaries and benefits would increase by nearly $1 billion over what they’re already being paid.
Here’s the $987 million breakdown:
• $588 million in wage and benefit adjustments for Washington Education Association (WEA) members;
• $255 million wage and benefit increases for Washington Federation of State Employees (WFSE) members;
• $143 million in wage and benefit increases for Service Employees International Union (SEIU) members and other quasi-public employee unions; and,
• $1 million to fund the Labor Education & Research Center, which functions as a publicly subsidized training and support facility for the Washington State Labor Council.
The Senate budget introduced a new approach. Under that budget, every state employee would receive a flat $2,000 raise over the next two years. Republican’s plan would actually give a larger percentage increase to lower-paid workers and the state would save taxpayers about $75 million in the state’s 2015-17 budget – that’s right, addressing the concern about income inequality among state employees that liberals claim is important, and saving taxpayer money.
Of course, Democrats and their big labor supporters don’t agree with Republicans’ approach. Their opposition is perhaps best explained by the reality that they are not truly concerned with union members’ paychecks. Rather, union executives are concerned with their own pocketbooks. And, Democrats are concerned with ensuring they do not lose the financial support of said union executives during the next election cycle. Democrats are so concerned, in fact, they are willing to fabricate and spread false information to support the need for state employee pay hikes.
Democrats go so far as to justify forcing working families to foot the bill for nearly $1 billion worth of state employee pay increases by claiming state workers have gone six years without pay increases and, in turn, that has hurt retention rates.
As Shift reported, both claims are false. Republican state Senator John Braun used simple facts to disprove these two fabrications. First, the vast majority of state employees are being compensated more than four years ago – hence they have received raises in the last six years. In fact, their salaries have risen faster than inflation. Second, the state does not have a systemic retention problem – instead, Washington has a commendably low turnover rate that is well below the national public sector average.
In the end, it’s just another example of Democrats placing the interests of special interests ahead of the interests for working families.