As normal, once the Operating Budget was approved, the legislature concluded the session. Though a fix to school levies was also necessary to get out, the $52.4 billion operating budget is the final step. With the exception of paraeducator training only coming in at two days rather than the four we wanted, it was a tremendous session for PSE members. Here are the most significant gains this legislative session:
🙂 SEBB funding: $329 million
🙂 Special education funding increase: $155 million
🙂 Levy equalization increase: $62 million
🙂 Don’t deduct federal forest revenue from state allocation (affects school districts with federal forest lands within district boundaries): $26 million
House and Senate budget negotiators just released the final budget. This budget document may be too dense and confusing so if you want more detail, go here (start with page 177). Sorry but they have not yet published a good short summary of the budget. When they do, I will include it…here is a summary.
With only one hiccup, PSE’s priorities were fully funded!
🙂 Central and Western Washington University agreements funded.
🙂 PEBB insurance agreement funded.
🙂 SEBB insurance agreement funded.
🙁 Two days per year of paraeducator training – this is the one shortcoming of the budget. PSE wanted four days per year.
Other important notes:
….2% salary increase effective 9-1-19
….2.1% salary increase effective 9-1-20
Senator Mullet is continuing his efforts to weaken SEBB but now he is focusing on reducing benefits for part-time classified employees. With his recent bill, SB 6020, he gives up on trying to merge SEBB and PEBB, but he continues his attack on classified employees who work between 630 to 1,040 hours per year. First, he takes them out of SEBB, and second, he proposes to reduce their insurance funding below what they currently receive.
Yesterday, he joined with the Washington School Administrators Association (WASA), WSSDA (Washington State School Directors Association), Washington Association of School Business Officials (WASBO), and others, on a conference call with the Association of Washington Business (AWB) to explain why they should join him in supporting his recent bill. In the call, he even acknowledged that it would decrease some employee’s insurance benefits.
Despite our hopes that transportation contractors would be held responsible for providing their employees affordable insurance, HB 1813 came close but failed to make it past yesterday’s deadline. Oh well, it made good progress this year which may give it more momentum when it is brought up next year.
Last Friday, the SEBB coalition delivered this letter to legislators. It is great to see so many partners saying that part time classified employees and employees who need insurance for their dependents deserve affordable, quality insurance.
Coming off his incendiary amendment to the levy bill that would reduce teachers ability to negotiate salary increases, Senator Mullett (Issaquah) now takes aim at K 12 insurance benefits and more alarmingly, classified employees by reducing their insurance benefits. Mullett’s bill, SB 6011, was just introduced and would put all K 12 employees into PEBB (Public Employees Benefits Board), not SEBB (a nearly impossible task coming only five months before SEBB goes live).
Further it would change eligibility for full insurance funding to employees who work more than 1040 hours, currently employees need to work 630 hours. Employees who work between 630-1,040 hours would receive pro-rated insurance benefits (going back to the system currently in place).
There’s more, including a possible $2,600 contribution to an HSA (Health Savings Account), but that is thrown in to paper over the dramatic decrease in insurance benefits for employees who work between 630-1,440 hours.
During his recent interview on Inside Olympia, lead budget writer in the House, Representative Tim Ormsby (Spokane), was asked what he thought of the $1 billion cost of SEBB…here’s what he said:
With the release, amendment, and final debates on Thursday, the Senate budget has been approved. With the approval, House and Senate budget negotiators go behind closed doors to iron out the differences between the budgets. Attempts to undermine SEBB failed (what a relief) – as a result SEBB was fully funded, PSE higher education contracts at Western and Central Washington Universities were funded, the PEBB coalition agreement on insurance funding for calendar years 2020 and 2021 were funded, and four days per year of paraeducator training were funded. Now we have to encourage Senate negotiators to hold their position in final negotiations.
Monday and Tuesday are the last committee hearings of the session (the only additional hearings will be when bills to implement the budget are heard at the end of session). Starting on Wednesday, legislators will spend the remaining days of the session on the floor voting on the bills that are still alive.
Yesterday, the Senate Education Committee approved HB 1813, a bill that requires non-governmental employers to provide the same funding for SEBB (School Employees Benefits Board) and SERS (School Employees Retirement System) benefits as are funded by school districts for their classified employees. The catch is that these benefits are only provided to represented employees and further, the additional funds for these benefits would have to be negotiated with the employees. In other words just because employers have to fund it doesn’t mean the employees will get it; they must negotiate to get it.