If Jay Inslee’s pre-Christmas budget proposal sent any clear message it was that he does not consider public education spending the state’s highest priority. Our green governor’s budget proposal reveals his main concern, and it has nothing to do with meeting the requirements of the McClearly decision. Rather, his priorities lie with generously paying back his top campaign donors — state and school employee unions.
Inslee’s budget includes spending for employee pay hikes to the tune of a whopping $867 million. His pay raises are spread across government, so that all state employees will “match the roughly 4.8 percent increases that most general-government employees would receive spread over two years.” According to the Olympian, “The first yearly raise is worth 3 percent for most general-government workers and takes effect next July 1 if lawmakers agree to pay for two-dozen employee contracts Inslee included in his budget.”
Who (other than taxpayers) would bear the burden of Inslee’s pay hikes? Inslee, like a generation of Democrat budget writers before him, looked to a familiar cash cow: public universities. The Olympian,
In a surprise to higher education, Inslee is asking universities and colleges to make up some of the costs of pay hikes using tuition — roughly in the percentage of college costs that tuition provides. At the University of Washington, vice president of external affairs Randy Hodgins said that would amount to about two-thirds of the pay adjustments and marked a change in state policy.
“To a certain extent there is no other way to interpret this than to cut from the base,” Hodgins said, suggesting this will mean fewer courses available, requiring students to remain longer in school at a higher cost to them and their families. “We’re going to advocate strongly that we don’t do that once we get into the legislative arena … There is no other way to describe it than we are disappointed.”
Inslee’s proposal should come to no surprise. Democrats have long treated public universities as an endless source of revenue, raising tuition to among the top rates in the nation as a means to pay for their spending schemes. It is only due to Republican leadership in the State Senate that a freeze on tuition hikes is now in place—though certain Democrats have attempted to take credit for the popular policy.