December 13, 2010

Special session gives hint of sobering week, months ahead

This is a relatively long message to give you context about what’s ahead this week. This coming week will set the stage for the next few months. And we don’t want to sugarcoat anything and have you be surprised when you see the next anti-state employee editorial or dismal budget news on TV.

First, Saturday’s special session of the Legislature made some $700 million in new cuts for the rest of the budget year through June 30, 2011. Many of them were cuts already taking place, like the additional furloughs in the Department of Social and Health Services.

The problem: The state says there is simply no money to cover the deficit. The Rainy Day Fund is gone. There is no federal stimulus money. Passage of Initiative 1053 makes it virtually impossible to raise new revenue. Defeat of the pop and bottled water tax cut millions in revenue. And there are few one-time gimmicks that can easily dig the state out of its whole.

So the governor and Legislature say they must cut, cut, cut even where they’ve already cut to the bone and into the marrow. Programs and agencies are on the chopping block. And of course state payroll costs.

But you already knew that. You understand the gravity of the state’s budget mess. You didn’t cause it, but you’re trying to save quality state services all the while fighting off attacks on the economic well being of you and your families.

And we’ll keep saying it until we’re blue in the face: State employee sacrifices have been significant and it’s time for the state to look in the right places to cut.

That message was delivered for the umpteenth time Saturday in a hearing before the House Ways and Means Committee on HB 3225, the $700 million cuts bill.

“Contrary to what you read in the editorial pages, this package of cuts, like the last two rounds of cuts, features real economic sacrifices by state employees,” said Dennis Eagle, the Federation’s director of legislative and political action.

“Federation members on average earn $42,000 a year and it is these people who are being subjected to wage reductions, furloughs, layoffs and out-of-pocket health care costs that have increased by 100 percent.

Eagle said the Employment Security Department reports that 4,900 former state employees are collecting unemployment insurance “and this package will increase that number."

“If the editorial writers were something other than propagandists, they would offer up their own loopholes to help (resolve) the economic crisis. Closing the loophole for newspaper publishers would surely restore much of the Disability Lifeline cuts you’re considering here today.

“More likely they’ll continue to call for more sacrifices by people other than themselves.

“State employees are real people who do important jobs under difficult circumstances and I just hope to live to see the day when the people who really created The Great Recession are asked to sacrifice as well.”

Here are examples of some wrong-headed editorials:
Let’s hope the facts Eagle laid out aren’t again sacrificed in this debate.

We say all this to prepare you for what will be a sobering week. The governor unveils her budget plan for 2011-2013 on Wednesday, followed Friday by the plan to cut another $400 million not covered in Saturday’s special session.

Four of the Federation’s bargaining teams meet early this week. The General Government and The Evergreen State College bargaining teams meet Monday, followed Wednesday by the Community College Coalition and Western Washington University teams. The budget situation looms over those talks as it has for the past eight months.


No comments: