With budget week about to begin, collective bargaining agreements face more scrutiny

Last October, we wrote that there was reason to believe the Legislature might balk at funding the agreements. Months later, the budget impact remains a consideration, as Joseph O’Sullivan reports in the Seattle Times

If approved by the Legislature, most of the state’s 95,000 workers would get a 6 percent raise through the 2019 budget year.

But nearly one in five workers — more than 18,000 — would see larger pay boosts. Nurses like Bailey would get a 27.5 percent raise over three years. The state’s forensic scientists could see 10 percent increases. Psychiatric social workers could see their pay rise by 50 percent.

The targeted pay raises are part of a $732 million state employee compensation package that includes negotiated or arbitrated union contracts. Lawmakers must consider the package as they draft a new two-year state operating budget.

As he has consistently, the Senate’s chief budget writer has reservations.

Sen. John Braun, R-Centralia and chief GOP budget writer, has suggested his budget proposal — which could come as soon as Monday — might follow the approach his party tried during the 2015 budget negotiations.

That year, the initial GOP Senate budget plan called for rejecting the contracts and instead giving every state worker a flat $2,000 raise. That move also would have reduced by hundreds of millions of dollars the amount spent on state employee raises.

The Times reports the governor remains committed to the contracts.

“I believe that these contracts that we negotiated and signed were the right thing for Washington,” Inslee said recently. “Because they allow us to have a workforce that can actually provide services that Washingtonians need.”

Under the collective bargaining law, they are limited to an up-0r-down vote on the final agreements.