Budget priorities: Compensation increases?

December 18, 2012

In my post earlier today I broke down Governor Gregoire's proposed tax increases. In her document explaining her Book 1 Budget (no tax increases), she said she proposed these tax increases because not doing so would result in:

  • Reducing levy equalization funding to local school districts by $100 million;
  • Imposing $52 million in across-the-board cuts to the public universities and colleges;
  • Ending liquor profit sharing of $49 million with local government;
  • Eliminating or suspending services that benefit vulnerable or poor citizens, including:

    • State Food Assistance Program, which serves approximately 11,300 non-citizens each month. ($25 million)

    • Individual and Family Services Program, which helps keep 1,100 families intact by providing assistance in caring for family members with developmental disabilities. ($11 million)

    • Add-on rates for shopping and laundry services for 8,275 elderly and developmentally disabled clients because they live more than 45 minutes from a shopping facility or do not have on-site access to a laundry facility. ($12 million)

    • State-only employment services for 568 clients with developmental disabilities, including job training, placement and support. ($9 million);

  • Reducing grants to support county and local fair operations. ($3.5 million); and

  • Reducing grants and technical support to local watershed planning groups by $2.8 million.

The total for these proposed cuts is $264 million.

Included in the Governor's Book 2 budget (the one with tax increases), however, are these spending priorities:

  • $166 million to restore K-12 salary reduction;
  • $171 million to restore 3% salary reduction for state employees; and

  • $37 million for new a step increase for state employees.

The total for these proposed compensation enhancements is $374 million.

As agreed to in the recent state employee contracts, Section 908 of Gregoire's budget would also grant an additional 1 percent across-the-board pay increase depending on future economic growth.

At a quick glance it looks like the priorities that would be funded by any tax increase would include compensation improvements.

Is this a trade off a recession weary electorate will support?

Based on the comments from Governor-elect Inslee and Republican budget writers, it may be a moot question.

Ultimately the Legislature should have the final say on these types of employee compensation decisions (other than a yes/no vote) to help facilitate a true top/bottom prioritization of the budget options.