OLYMPIA…Senate Republican Leader John Braun, R-Centralia, released the following statement in response to the announcement today by the Office of Financial Management (OFM) that the collective bargaining agreements with the public employees union, negotiated by the governor and his campaign donors in secret, will cost more than $1 billion.
“I don’t fault public employees for wanting raises. Right now, we only know that the collective bargaining agreements will cost more than $1 billion from the general fund and $1.6 billion in total funds. But there’s more than $1 billion in additional costs not accounted for yet. For what it will cost to give raises to a relative few, we could have given tax relief to everyone. Inslee and Democrats said no. Our plan to cut the gas tax would have shared the benefit among more than 7 million people statewide. Instead, the governor and the public employee unions who donate millions to his campaign crafted a raise and benefits package that rewards a fraction of Washingtonians.
“All we heard in response to our gas tax relief proposal last session was that the state couldn’t afford it. Apparently, it could. It just didn’t want to. And saying that the proposal would benefit the oil companies was a false, but convenient and triggering, talking point for the governor. Perhaps he just wanted to reserve the money to placate his donors and tax relief for everyone threatened that.
“Even worse is that the agreements were negotiated in secret. The governor refuses to open up negotiations. The only opportunity the Legislature has to provide input is to either approve them as is or not. We can’t change any of the specifics. And although the governor has pointed to the Joint Committee on Employment Relations as the mechanism for legislative oversight, the bipartisan group of members on the committee get no additional details beyond what is released to the public. They, too, must wait until after the deals are reached. Any claim that the existence of the committee means the Legislature is involved in the negotiations is nonsense.”
The “known” costs of the collective bargaining agreements come to just over $1 billion from the general fund and $1.6 billion in total funds. Not included in that estimate are the costs of the agreements for nonemployees (e.g. – SEIU homecare workers), ferry workers, state patrol, and employees of the Department of Corrections. Also, these figures do not include any costs for the collective bargaining agreement with higher education unions, which negotiate directly with the respective institutions. Since tens of thousands of workers are employed at Washington’s higher education institutions, the additional cost will be substantial.