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Washington State Employees Negotiate First Pay Raises In 6 Years

Washington state employees have not had a cost-of-living raise in six years. But that could change in the next budget cycle.

A tentative contract deal has been struck between the state and the union representing general government workers.

The contract, which calls for a nearly 5-percent raise over two years, would cover some 30,000 unionized general government employees. Those details come from the Washington Federation of State Employees.

The state says the price tag on the tentative contract will be about $250 million over two years if it also applies to non-unionized employees. The next question is: Can the state afford this, and where would the money come from?

Washington is expected to take in nearly $3 billion more in revenues in the next two years, but much of that money is already obligated and the Supreme Court recently found the state in contempt for not fully funding public education.

The next step is for the union members to ratify the agreement. Then in November, the governor’s budget office will determine if the contract is “financially feasible.” If so, then the legislature would get the final say with an up or down vote, but no ability to tweak the contract.

Since January 2004, Austin Jenkins has been the Olympia-based political reporter for the Northwest News Network. In that position, Austin covers Northwest politics and public policy as well as the Washington State legislature. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) Emmy-nominated public affairs program "Inside Olympia." Prior to joining the Northwest News Network, Austin worked as a television reporter in Seattle, Portland and Boise. Austin is a graduate of Garfield High School in Seattle and Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Austin’s reporting has been recognized with awards from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors, Public Radio News Directors Incorporated and the Society of Professional Journalists.