Our Views: No Education Plan, but Costly State Worker Contracts Proposed


Gov. Jay Inslee’s budget office is proposing $500 million in contracts for state workers in 38 employee unions. That number includes raises for 50,000 state workers totaling roughly 6 percent over two years, according to The News Tribune. 

The proposals came after customary, secret negotiations between the Governor’s Office and the unions, discussions that remain closed to the public. They’re also cast against the backdrop of a gubernatorial election year in which Inslee stands to benefit politically by offering more money to the state’s workforce. 

All the while, Inslee has still failed to bring forward a proposal to deal with funding of the state’s public education system, which has seen little advancement in the years since the landmark McCleary decision. The state Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a $100,000 a day fine against the state as a task force works to come to a solution. 

On the state contracts, we share the concerns of our own lawmaker, state Sen. John Braun, Centralia. The Republican commented on the contracts — and the possibilities of approval by the Legislature — during an interview with The News Tribune this week. 

“It’s about $500 million per biennium in general fund (money), but in total, it’s about $1 billion,” Braun said. “It’s a ton of money, I don’t know where it all comes from.”

He noted that some of the proposed raises outpace the rate of inflation, and questioned whether such large raises are necessary. 

As the state emerges from the Great Recession, there are indeed good reasons for boosting pay for workers who have seen their wages frozen during years of financial challenges. The State Patrol, included in the proposed raises, deserves to see additional pay on par with those of their colleagues in other agencies. That’s a sentiment the Legislature has already codified in legislation approved last year. 

Still, it’s yet another reminder of the potential value in opening the state union negotiations beyond the Governor’s own budget office. The involvement of the public, and members of the Republican party, would provide a greater ability to reach a mutual compromise that would create a smoother road for the proposals during the upcoming legislative session. 

Lawmakers will find it challenging to manage the costs of Inslee’s proposals with the growing demands for a solution on education. 

On that matter, we’re still waiting on a plan from Inslee, something that was promised last time he was elected yet still eludes the voters of this state.