Jay Inslee and his fellow Democrats justify spending a whopping $867 million (the result of Inslee’s secret negotiations with the top union executives who supported his campaign) for Washington state employee pay hikes 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.
The vast majority of state employees are being compensated higher than four years ago, with pay rising faster than inflation. Additionally, the state has a commendably low turnover rate that is well below the national public sector average.
The Olympian also recognizes both these facts in a recent article. The newspaper confirms that Republicans are correct in pointing out the state agencies are not facing critical problems retaining workers. It goes on to admit that nearly two-thirds of state employees received a pay raise of 2.5 percent to 5 percent last year. And, approximately one-third of received similar increases during the last six years.
However, the Olympian stops short of recommending the Legislature refrain from busting the budget to raise state employee pay for one simple reason. Last week, the Washington Citizens’ Commission on Salaries for Elected Officials “endorsed a draft plan to end a six-year pay drought for most elected state officials including state legislators.” The proposal “would give raises totaling 11.2 percent over the next two years to all 147 state legislators.” The raise is “not out of line with cost of living increases since 2008” but, writes the Olympian, “if pay raises are good enough for our elected officials, they must be good enough for the rank and file.”
It’s important to point out another relevant detail to the prospects of elected official and state employee pay hikes—taxpayers would fund both. Before taking steps to fund pay hikes, the impact on Washington’s working families must be thoroughly evaluated with the understanding that—unlike state employees—the average worker does not receive “step” pay hikes each year.