The results of Jay Inslee’s secret contract negotiations with the state employee unions were concluded this week. Predictably, the unions — who “invested” over $1 million in Jay Inslee’s 2012 gubernatorial bid — won big. As SHIFT reported, Inslee conceded across-the-board, non-merit based pay hikes for the 30,000 state employee union members.
Inslee agreed to “raise worker pay by 3 percent in July 2015 and approximately 1.8 percent the following year. Some workers will get additional 2.5 percent raises.” Considering the fact that roughly a third of state employees have received raises every year, Inslee’s contract concessions place a heavy burden on the state’s taxpayers. In fact, the Office of Financial Management (OFM) estimates that the pay hikes will increase the state budget by $250 million over the next two years.
Inslee’s concessions to his financial donors did not stop at pay raises. According to an email send out by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) yesterday (will link to email), unions were also able to hang on to their generous healthcare compensation packages. The state—meaning taxpayers—will continue to pay 85% of premium costs, while employees pay 15%—a deal that is unheard of in the private sector.
SHIFT has pointed out that Inslee’s 2012 gubernatorial campaign benefitted from millions of dollars in donations from state employee unions (WFSE and its national organization AFSCME gave a whopping $1.1 million). As the Freedom Foundation puts it, AFSCME’s investment is paying off. AFSCME’s members “must pay 1.5 percent of their salary to the union in dues.” With the projected $250 million in added compensation, the union stands to net “as much as $3.7 million in new dues over the life of the contract.”
One has to wonder whether Inslee’s negotiators even bothered sitting across the table from the unions, given that it appears the state gave them everything they wanted. However, due the secrecy surrounding the talks, the public has no idea whether Inslee actually bargained on anything.
Inslee’s contract concessions comes when his own economists are raising red flags about the condition of the state budget. The Office of Financial Management recently projected that the “revenue growth for 2015–17 will fall far short of what will be needed to maintain current services, cover mandatory increases and provide an additional $1 billion to $2 billion to meet the state’s constitutional basic education obligations” as ordered by the state Supreme Court’s McCleary decision.
Additionally, the passage of the Washington Education Association’s (WEA) latest power grab (Initiative 1351) would place even more strain on the state’s budget and ability to comply with the McCleary decision. Contrary to its promise to reduce class sizes, I-1351 would increase union dues and hand over significant budgetary powers to the WEA.
The News Tribune recently called I-1351 out on its deliberate deception, accusing the initiative of “malicious mischief.” A handful of state Democrats have even come out against the initiative, citing concerns over the Legislature’s ability to fulfill its constitutional duty concerning the McCleary decision and the addition of billions in new costs while busting the state budget. Of course, given Inslee’s track record of rewarding campaign donors, don’t hold your breath for Inslee to come out in public opposition to I-1351. State budgets and children’s futures be damned, because the WEA donated $1 million to Inslee’s gubernatorial bid.