Officials from the Washington State Federation of Employees (WSFE)—our state’s state employee union—resumed contract negotiations with a team appointed by Governor Jay Inslee this morning. The negotiations will continue to take place in secret as the state employees union wants. That means that all “members of the public, the media, even state lawmakers, are barred from attending or observing the high-level talks.”
This round of negotiations will begin at 9:00 am this morning and will conclude by 5:00 pm Wednesday. All in all, the secret talks are expected to last until September 3.
According to the Washington Policy Center, the talks may result in “close to $1 billion in potential new costs for taxpayers.” The Office of Fiscal Management predicts that the state’s health benefit costs will increase by $308 million while “‘other policy enhancements (including state employee compensation increases)’ will add another $600 million.”
Jay Inslee made an early concession when he called the lack of pay raises received by state employees “unacceptable” right before the start of talks. Since then, Inslee’s team has managed to reach “22 tentative agreements” with union representatives. The nature of the 22 agreements [read: concessions] remain unknown.
What do we know?
We know that the predicted cost increase figures—as reported by the Office of Fiscal Management—indicate “concessions the Governor’s negotiating team plans to make in the secret talks taking place over the summer.” From the Washington Policy Center,
In advance of that announcement, the Governor seems to be preparing the public for bad news. According to Richard Davis of the Washington Research Council, the Governor said:
“We are going to recognize the cold hard fact that the state of Washington is going to have to find a way to generate additional revenues to solve this problem.”
As Mr. Davis rightly points out, when a public officials say he needs “Additional revenue” it means a tax increases. The early notification about a coming a tax increase is further indication the Governor’s representatives plan to concede steep increases in state payroll costs in tomorrow’s secret negotiations with union executives.