Governor Gregoire has been negotiating with over two dozen unions as the deadline to meet the budget proposal for 2013-15 is fast approaching. Tentative contract agreements have been reached with ten of the unions that would restore the three percent pay cuts of the last two years. The real conflict lies with health care where the unions are looking for a guarantee that the state continue to pay 85% of premium costs. Tim Welch, a spokesman for the Washington Federation of State Employees, said that workers wanted “to start getting back a little bit of what they had to sacrifice.”
A few facts seem to escape this negotiation process when it comes to the real state of our State. The fact is unemployment remains stubbornly high with many desperate to find work; the State public debt and liabilities are $27.3 billion; the State has been ordered to fully fund education which will require an additional $1 billion and a revenue shortfall of about $500 million is expected.
These are the people who support the Democratic mantra of “the rich aren’t paying their fair share.” While they complain about paying 15% of their insurance premiums, the private sector employees are paying 25% if they even have health insurance. Meanwhile, healthcare providers who care for those on Medicare receive reimbursement for 70% of their cost and payment to Medicaid providers is only 40% of the amount private insurance pays.
We do have a class-based society in our country today, not between the rich and the poor but between the political class and the everyday taxpayer. Unions exist to serve the interests of their members, not to advocate for public policy that serves the general public interest. Government employees were once considered public servants, but today they are considered “part of the problem.”