It is well known that the next legislative session has one overarching priority – adequately funding our public schools. In fact, the State Supreme Court reminded lawmakers just yesterday that the state remains under contempt of court – and is being fined $100,000 a day – for not following its constitutional duty as outlined in the 2012 McCleary decision.
However, for one collection of Washington workers, our schools and the children attending them can go to the back of the school bus when it comes to state funding. And those folks are the state’s own employees.
The Tacoma News Tribune highlighted today that “deals reached this month between Gov. Jay Inslee’s budget office and 38 employee unions would give pay raises to thousands of state workers. But at a time when Washington lawmakers are struggling to come up with billions to solve school-funding problems, the contracts’ $500 million price tag could be a tough sell in the Legislature.”
The half billion in union contracts was what was “negotiated” by Jay Inslee with his million-dollar campaign donors. And those contracts cannot be changed by the state legislature – they must be voted on as written.
And that may not be a done deal, because “State Sen. John Braun, a Centralia Republican who serves as the vice chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said the cost of the contracts ‘has put us in a very difficult position’ given the challenges the state is facing to fully fund schools. ‘It’s about $500 million per biennium in general fund (money), but in total, it’s about $1 billion,’ Braun said of the contracts, referencing the total effect on other accounts like the transportation budget, as well as federal funds. ‘It’s a ton of money, I don’t know where it all comes from,’ he said.”
Of course, Inslee’s minions say don’t worry about the half a billion, or billion dollars. It’s all about employee retention, according to David Schumacher, Inslee’s budget director. “ ‘These agreements will give state agencies more tools for recruiting and retaining employees in today’s competitive economy,’ Schumacher said.”
It’s surprising that Schumacher would rely on the retention argument, since as Shift has reported in the past, that is not true.
But it is certainly not surprising that Inslee would seek to pay off his campaign donors using public money. After all, he’s done it before.