April 5, 2010

House OK's furlough bill, 50-38; Personal holiday amendment defeated

The House late Friday afternoon OK’d the bad state employee furlough bill with just a bare one vote majority, 50-38.

As bad as it is, ESSB 6503 has been greatly mitigated from the original bill. The bill as it stands requires agencies and higher education institutions to come up with a plan to reduce state employee compensation costs. Those that don’t will be forced to inflict 10 furlough or temporary layoff dates from July 12, 2010, to June 10, 2011. Only about 26 percent of state employees would be covered.

Two noteworthy amendments – one good and one bad – were defeated.
  • Rep. Brendan Williams’ good amendment to cut legislators’ per diem payments equal to any pay cuts to state employees failed 57-31. 
  • Rep. Charles Ross’s bad amendment to take away state employees’ personal holiday also failed 52-36.
    In further mitigation, the House amended the bill back to require bargaining over furloughs between the governor and each exclusive bargaining representative, not a single coalition of all unions. 

    It’s worth noting that even though it passed, ESSB 6503 has been mitigated thanks to your constant pressure since January. It originally called for 16 mandatory furlough days, with far fewer exemptions. Now it requires only 10 and only if agencies or institutions don’t come up with alternative plans. 

    And $10 million of the $50 million in compensation savings must come from management staff not covered by civil service.

    “If this bill were about shared sacrifices, I’d be standing up saying let’s vote for it…,” Rep. Geoff Simpson, D-47th Dist., said during debate on ESSB 6503.

    “Instead we pile onto our own state employees a tax increase in effect that’s a mile deep and a half-inch wide. It’s not fair, it’s not shared sacrifice. It’s not a good way to run the state of Washington.”

    With that, the House adjourned essentially until later next week when it’s hoped all the pieces are in place for a final budget and revenue package.

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