July 5, 2017 – After 181 days and three special sessions, the Washington State Legislature passed a budget and avoided a government shutdown. Below are some highlights.
The Legislature made significant headway in fully funding K-12 as mandated by the Washington Supreme Court’s McCleary decision. The state is changing the formula for how they calculate funding for school districts, and there is still lots to figure out, but more than $7 billion will go into the K-12 system over four years, with minimum average salaries set for instructional, administrative, and classified staff.
While we are pleased that the state is finally taking K-12 funding seriously, the funding for this package could have been more progressive, such as closing loopholes on capital gains and/or carbon emissions. As it is, the property tax increase will be felt particularly hard by residents of Western Washington.
SEIU 925 members at the University of Washington and family child care providers had our union contracts funded. Members at the UW won a 6% raise, and family child care providers built on previous work to win an additional 2% rate increase, while child care centers caught up with a 6% increase.
The Legislature passed a first-in-the-nation paid family and medical leave bill, which will allow Washington workers to take up to 12 weeks of time off to care for a new infant or sick loved one. For family child care providers who employ teachers, it is important to note that employers with fewer than 50 employees will not pay additional costs.
In addition to these successes, we worked with the broader labor community to kill bad bills that would have undermined worker rights. Senator Hawkins of Wenatchee proposed legislation to allow commercial growers to avoid liability for unpaid wages during farmworker rest breaks, and Senator Baumgartner of Spokane introduced “right to work” and “teen wage” bills which would have undermined the new state minimum wage law by allowing teen workers to be paid less.
Republicans, including many anti-union legislators, control the state senate by a single vote, allowing them to hear bills that would be destructive to workers, our community, and our environment. This year marks the third time our state has faced a government shutdown because of their refusal to seriously negotiate a budget deal that doesn’t harm working families. Enough is enough.
This year, a special election in the 45th Legislative District (encompassing Kirkland, Redmond, and Woodinville) will determine control of the state senate. Union members like you will be making calls and knocking doors to make sure voters know what’s at stake – passing progressive legislation that works for our families, or continued partisanship and gridlock.
You can help. Sign up as a Purple Protector today, and we’ll keep you up to date about what you can do during this critical election!