Senate transportation budget faces criticism at public hearing for proposed actions on collective bargaining

Leaders in Washington transportation expressed their support or opposition to the Senate’s proposed transportation budget Tuesday afternoon.

The budget appropriates $8.4 billion for the upcoming 2017-2019 biennium, and projects higher revenue coming in than the past biennium.

Most testifying Tuesday sought more wiggle room in the budget for their respective interests. Multiple people representing the Washington State Ferries Association or other ferry organizations, asked lawmakers to allocate funds to build another ferry. Brad Jurkovich, executive director of the Washington Ferry Coalition, said that now would be the appropriate time to invest in a new boat because crews have completed building four new boats over the past several years, increasing efficiency. The budget for the project to build four boats ran at around $515 million, according to Washington State Department of Transportation records.

“We’d love to see it keep going for obvious reasons,” he said at the hearing.

Union representatives also voiced concerns, asking lawmakers to include collective bargaining contracts. John Kendo, government affairs director for the Washington State Labor Council, pointed specifically to maritime collective bargaining contracts.

I am “disappointed to testify in opposition,” he said, adding, “mainly because of the silence on two large collective bargaining agreements.”

He said collective bargaining was a critical tool in keeping and recruiting high-skilled workers.

“I think the rejection of the maritime contracts was unfortunate because there was a space to have that market-based conversation,” he said.

Collective bargaining was a key spot that Republican Senate leaders cut in the budget overall. As part of the Majority Coalition Caucus’ press release they explained their stance for taking the collective bargaining agreements off the table. In lieu of the agreements they would offer $1,000 pay increases to “all state agency and higher-education employees,” while maintaining current health plans, fund step increases of 5 percent annually for employees’ first five years and they include a 4 percent pay raise for home care workers. In their press package the MCC stated:

The Senate budget rejects most of the collective-bargaining agreements negotiated last year by the governor and public-employee unions. Yet it recognizes the important contribution of the state’s front-line workers. The Senate plan gives the largest (by percentage) raises to the workers who need them most: those toward the lower end of the pay scale.

Erin Fenner: erin@washingtonstatewire.com, @erinfenner

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