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Category: Legislature

July
10th

PEBB outlines employee health rates for 2014 that show a few small premium increases

State employees may get another dose of good news soon. The Public Employees Benefits Board received a briefing Wednesday on what 2014 health-insurance premiums could look like for current and retired employees, and the news is pretty good.

A few plans show rates going up slightly and a few go down. The PEBB, which is made up of representatives of personnel offices, unions and retirees, is scheduled to adopt the new rates schedule [pages 5-10] on Wednesday, July 17. Employees can enroll for coverage  in the fall.

The premium news comes as

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July
5th

Officials say cost of government shutdown preparations was borne by staffers, not taxpayers

Threats of a government shutdown were a distraction and caused anxiety for a lot of state employees last month, but state officials say they doubt the Legislature’s logjam on a budget added real costs for taxpayers. ”I don’t think there would be an actual cost,” state budget director David Schumacher said in an interview, adding that it unquestionably added to the workload of top staffers in state agencies. “It just kind of filled up a lot of time they could have been working on other things.”

No tally of costs is planned because, as Schumacher put it, it would add just

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July
3rd

Inslee signs tech-spending bill that is stripped of contracting out language

Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill into law Wednesday that aims to bring more security and results from the state’s estimated $1 billion a year outlay for information technology and services.

I’ve written a print story about Senate Bill 5891 for print editions of The Olympian and News Tribune. One high profile element of the bill requires state agencies and universities to have IT security plans and gives the state’s relatively new chief information officer, Michael Cockrill, a leading role in setting standards for that security.

The legislation also creates a purchasing pool for technology projects, lets smaller pilot projects bypass

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June
27th

UPDATE – Budget deal to use ‘pilot projects’ to let some part time employees get healthcare via Obamacare exchange

Senate Ways and Means chairman Andy Hill says the handshake budget agreement reached with the House negotiators at 10:40 a.m. Thursday does not force part time state or K-12 employees into the Obamacare health exchange to get their health coverage.  Instead, the goal is to try pilot projects that a limited number of unions could opt to consider, Hill said.

The Republican budget writer spoke shortly after Gov. Jay Inslee announced the budget agreement in a minute-long press conference.

Labor unions including the Washington Federation of State Employees had been strongly opposed to any mandatory push that created a two-tier

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June
24th

State workers in ‘wait-and-see’ mode as layoff warnings go out

As state employees began receiving notices Monday that they could be furloughed starting July 1, worry and uncertainty prevailed at many offices.

Some state workers remained optimistic that lawmakers would pass a budget in time to avoid any temporary layoffs, while others expressed frustration that the Legislature, which is in the middle of a second 30-day overtime session to finalize a two-year spending plan, still hadn’t completed its work.

Should lawmakers fail to pass a budget before June 30, a government shutdown will begin July 1, completely closing 34 state offices and partially shutting down 24 others, state officials said last

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June
15th

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

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

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June
5th

CLARIFIED – House budget plan says no thanks to Senate proposal putting part-time workers into Obamacare exchange for health coverage

House Democrats’ latest budget proposal gives in to Senate Republicans on many spending and tax questions, but it holds firm its opposition to the Senate’s plan to shift  part-time school or state employees into the health exchange being opened next year via Obamacare. Washington appears to be the first state to seriously consider the concept as a budget-saving tool.

Rep. Ross Hunter, the Medina Democrat who chairs the budget-writing Appropriations Committee, said the proposal included in the Senate Majority Coalition Caucus budget has problems. It assumes some $127.2 million in savings from giving part time workers a $2 an

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May
3rd

UPDATE – Gov. Inslee signs bill giving state workers a tax break on parking, transit costs

Gov. Jay Inslee signed a bill into law today that lets state employees pay for their work-related parking and transit costs using pretax earnings. Democratic Rep. Sam Hunt of Olympia sponsored the measure, House Bill 1456, and he said it offers some small financial help to state workers.

“This is their pay raise,’’ Hunt half-joked.

Keith Cotton, manager of commute-trip reduction for the state Department of Transportation, said his agency has about 800 workers who use bus passes that cost the worker about $25 a month. For someone paying that rate and taxed at the 25

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