October 20, 2014
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Raises, health care costs in proposed state employee contract pegged at $583 million


New labor contracts for Washington state employees and home care workers will add $583 million to the budget, according to figures released last week.

It's a significant hit to the budget on top of the billions required to comply with Supreme Court rulings requiring more money for education and mental health treatment, The Olympian reports.

Under the contracts, most state employees would receive a 3 percent raise in July 2015 and at least 1.8 percent in 2016. Thousands would also receive an additional 2.5 percent one-time increase. This is on top of "step" or longevity pay increases of 2.5 to 5 percent for about 2/3 of state workers.

Raises, along with keeping the state's share of health care premiums at 85 percent, would add up to more than half a billion dollars. The Office of Financial Management still has to determine if the contracts are financially feasible, which will happen after the Nov. 19 state revenue forecast. The Legislature would also have to approve the contracts.

The cost assumes benefits in union contracts are also applied to non-union workers in general government and higher education. King 5 also covered the story.



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Northwest must preserve salmon and hydro dams

By Terry Flores, executive director of Northwest RiverPartners

Last month at Bonneville Dam, an extraordinary coalition of Northwest tribes, government agencies and river users -- including farmers, businesses and utilities -- gathered to celebrate a landmark event for our region's iconic salmon.

This year's return of about 2.3 million salmon and steelhead to the Columbia River Basin shattered the modern-day record for total annual salmon returns -- an abundance we haven't seen since fish counting began at the dam more than 75 years ago.
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