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State officials telling labor unions that July 10 paychecks will go out – even in a government shutdown

Post by Brad Shannon / The Olympian on June 15, 2013 at 7:00 am with No Comments »
June 14, 2013 8:16 pm
Gov. Jay Inslee
Gov. Jay Inslee

Gov. Jay Inslee’s budget office and lobbying team are working to win a budget deal in the Legislature that prevents a government shut down on July 1. But if no budget jells and a shutdown ensues on July 1, paychecks based on work done in June should go out to employees on July 10 as usual, unions say they are being told.

Several labor groups were briefed by Office of Financial Management director David Schumacher on Thursday and Friday, and they reported that OFM’s team  made clear the July 10 pay date will be honored. Money would come from taxes collected during the current fiscal year that ends June 30.

Tim Welch, spokesman for the Washington Federation of State Employees that represents more than 40,000 state workers, said the message given late Friday was “they’ll do whatever it takes” to get the checks out.

Dave Schiel, president of the Washington Public Employees Union, said he was told the same thing.

Schumacher later confirmed that as long as there is a state treasury function, “we think we’d be able to make that first payroll.”

State paydays normally fall  on the 10th and 25th of every month.

The union representatives said Schumacher also told them he doesn’t expect a government shutdown and that a budget deal can be reached beforehand. But if a shutdown becomes likely, agencies would need to notify represented workers in advance – in some cases at least seven days before hand or June 24 at the latest for WPEA, for example.

OFM is preparing for a shutdown as a precaution because the Republican Senate and Democratic House are  mired in a budget stalemate over taxes, school funding and GOP requests for business-friendly reforms to workers compensation system. The disagreement has pushed lawmakers into a second special session that began Wednesday.

Most state agencies need specific legislative authority in a lawfully adopted budget before they can spend taxpayer dollars, and their spending authority runs out June 30. Under any shutdown scenario, thousands of workers would be laid off, and OFM  is still working out details of which jobs can continue and how workers will be notified if they are put on temporary layoff.

Inslee’s budget team is waiting for agency directors and statewide elected officials to hand in reports by 5 p.m. Monday that explain what services they believe can legally be kept open in the event of a shutdown. Schiel said unions were told OFM offered to meet later next week to give more details once it has digested the agency requests.

In a nutshell, services or government functions that could qualify to keep operating in a shutdown are those funded in the transportation budget that already passed into law, or are sufficiently mandated by the federal and state constitutions that the state can risk violating a state constitutional requirement by spending on them. There also may be spending allowed that averts property damage or protects public safety.

Prisons and hospitals are expected to keep open due to public safety mandates. Some State Patrol funding is in the transportation budget.

Stay tuned.

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