Now is the Time to Negotiate Sustainable Contracts for State Employees
July 1, 2010 - 1:28pm
While the state budget outlook continues to look grim for the foreseeable future, key contracts are being negotiated with state employee unions this summer. While state employee contracts are not the only budget fix we need, the continued costs of salaries, pensions, and benefits are a major burden on our state’s long term financial health.
The fact that the state is expecting to collect $200 million dollars less than they had hoped from the new taxes including those on candy, bottled water, and beer, is just the beginning of their budget woes. Budgeting on “hope” may backfire as well as $480 million of expected federal money looks less like a reality every day.
All of this means that the state government needs to take every opportunity to cut costs. To her credit, the governor has recently announced a plan to “transform Washington’s budget” but she should not miss the opportunity to address a major budget issue while she has the opportunity. The unions lobbied hard to keep her from reopening their contracts, but they are in the process of negotiating for the 2011-2013 contracts, and now is the time to get it right.
It will not be an easy task, the unions reminded us of this when they filed a lawsuit last week to challenge the furloughs approved by the legislature earlier this year. The irony is that the furloughs were used as a way to save the state a small amount of money without having to completely lay-off some of these same workers. The cozy relationship between the governor and the unions she negotiates with has long been a contentious issue, but it is becoming increasingly clear that unless she is willing to take a tough stance in these negotiations, our state budget will continue to be unsustainable.