The Seattle Times editorial board is “deeply disappointed” with Gov. Gregoire.
For years, state employees have paid just 12 percent of their health-insurance premiums, including coverage of spouses and children. For years, the 12-percent share has been the target of critics, including this newspaper. We have continually pointed out it is less than half of what private employees typically pay. As the state has become shorter of funds, raising that 12 percent employee contribution has become imperative.
Last summer, the state undertook to negotiate an increase in the ongoing contract, which could be extended through June 30, 2012. Gregoire asked the union to agree to a 26 percent cost share. Last week, she settled for 15 percent. In other words, she tried for an increase of 14 percentage points and won 3. This piddling increase, amounting to $27 a month, will be effective Jan. 1, 2012 — 13 months from now.
Where to start? I guess, with the math, where I suppose one could categorize this deal as a “piddling” 3 percent increase, or, one could divide 3 by 12 and understand that what this really represents to state workers is a 25 percent increase in health insurance costs… and that’s on top of the annual premium increases due to inflation.
And, assuming the Times’ own numbers are accurate (not a safe assumption considering their penchant for misleading readers), if 3 percent of monthly premiums equals $27, and workers will now be paying 15 percent, that means the average monthly premium will rise to over $135 by time the new agreement is in effect. So what truly disappoints the Times, apparently, is that state workers’ average share of health insurance premiums didn’t more than double to over $234 a month… an increase of over $1,500 annually.
$1,500 dollars a year. That’s what the Times wants state workers to give back in exchange for, well, nothing.
But the real issue here is not the math, misleading or not. No, the real issue is the Times vehement insistence on misrepresenting our current budget woes as a crisis of spiraling spending, rather than plummeting revenues.
Note to Times: state workers did not cause this budget crisis… a Wall Street induced recession, and an inadequate tax structure did. And the fact that you choose to seize this crisis as just another opportunity to hate on organized labor, does you no credit, and ultimately, does the state no good.
For even if the Times were to achieve its anti-labor agenda beyond its wildest dreams, and roll back government wages and benefits by, say, a stunning 20 percent, it still wouldn’t even buy us a couple years of budget peace, because with or without this crappy economy, our antiquated tax structure simply cannot keep pace with economic growth, nor growth in demand for public services. And as long as so-called civic leaders like the Times insist on addressing only one side of the budget equation, Washington state will continue its slide toward Mississippi-like status.