Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Finally a budget deal . . .

Photo: Ted S. Warren / AP
After being called back by Governor Gregoire for a second special session for one day, legislators reached agreement on a state budget for the remainder of the biennium. The good news is that there are NO additional cuts to public education or higher ed. This is especially rewarding considering the tension we were experiencing this past November when the Governor shared her initial 2012 supplemental budget that

would have cut LEA funding and shortened the school year by four days.

Besides no cuts for us, it looks like there were compromise bills passed on retirement and health care two of the issues that proved most thorny to overcome. I’m finding it difficult to find details on these bills, but here is some information in this Seattle Times article on the retirement decision as well as responses from some legislators.

Part of the budget agreement was tied to a bill addressing early retirement benefits for future state employees. That measure had been a key sticking point between Democrats and Republicans. Senators approved the pension bill Tuesday by a margin of 27-22. It later passed the House, finalizing a deal that eluded lawmakers for months and delayed final action on the state budget.

State workers who retire before the age of 62 already have scaled back pension benefits. Under the new bill, pension benefits for workers retiring at the age of 55 would be reduced by as much as 50 percent. The changes only apply to workers hired starting in May 2013. The plan would save the state an estimated $1.3 billion over 25 years.

The only information I could find on the health care compromise is from the WEA web page.

A confusing and convoluted health care bill was approved by legislators at about 4:20 this morning. The bill was passed without a hearing. The bill makes major changes to the $1 billion health care system. It does not mandate a state takeover of the K-12 health care system, but it could force some school districts into the state health benefit plan if they fail to provide a lot of required data. While local collective bargaining rights are retained, the bill will have a major impact on local bargaining negotiations. More details forthcoming.

The Governor’s press release can be found here.

1 comment:

Scott Mitchell said...

WEA is still working on figuring out the health care bill but once I get the legislative update from them I will share what I know, hopefully by Monday at LM meeting. As far as the budget, it was great to see that we will see no major hits, no restoration of course, but no hits.