April 14, 2011

Insufficient Senate budget blasted; added furloughs illegal

Members from Yakima Valley School, Rainier School and other locals outside Wednesdays's Senate budget hearing.

The bipartisan Senate budget falls short in many areas, and proposed added furloughs are illegal. The budget also paradoxically claims to help disabled by hurting them.

That’s what the union told the Senate Ways and Means Committee late Wednesday during the hearing on HB 1087, the Senate operating budget plan for 2011-2013.

The plan proposes additional furloughs for those covered by a contract and earning more than $50,000 a year – despite a negotiated memorandum of understanding that the 3 percent temporary salary reduction furlough plan in the contract constitute the only furloughs.

“We’re quite confident that (the Senate furlough plan) is illegal, but it seems probably it would end up in court and that would put at risk the hundreds of millions of dollars in savings that you would otherwise be able to obtain from the collective bargaining agreements as they were presented to you,” the Federation’s Dennis Eagle told the budget panel.

Eagle also said the budget exempts the proposed Department of Enterprise Services from the “checks and balances” in the current contracting out rules. As is, that proviso sends the message that “we don’t know if it’ll save money, we don’t know if it’ll work, we don’t know if the vendors are even there, but by golly we privatizing it anyway,” he said.

“There needs to be some evidence presented that tax dollars would even be saved.”

Eagle and Julianne Moore, president of Yakima Local 1326 who works at Yakima Valley School, blasted the budget’s plans for residential habilitation centers for the developmentally disabled.

The Senate budget would close Rainier School and Frances Haddon Morgan Center and give remaining residents fewer choices. The House budget would close Yakima Valley School and the Morgan Center, but at a slower pace.

“I am not asking you to cut programs anywhere else,” Moore said. “I’m here to ask that people have a right to true choice as it is there right under the federal rules….

“These are homes for some of the most vulnerable people in this state and I actually do not believe it is right for anybody to tell my son or daughter or brother or sister where they should live.”

“We fundamentally reject the argument that you help disabled folks by harming disabled folks and we fundamentally reject the argument that we preserve choice by denying choice,” Eagle said.

Eagle thanked the budget writers for funding the medical interpreter program, including fees to support natural resource programs and accepting the negotiated contracts (except for the contradictory high-earner furlough proposal).

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