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Economy, Business, Finance, and Labor
Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Washington State Employees Negotiate First Pay Raises In 6 Years

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Washington state employees have not had a cost-of-living raise in six years. But that could change in the next budget cycle.

A tentative contract deal has been struck between the state and the union representing general government workers.

According to the Washington Federation of State Employees, the contract calls for a nearly 5 percent raise over two years. It would cover some 30,000 unionized general government employees.

The state says the price tag on the tentative contract will be about $250 million over two years if it also applies to non-unionized employees.

The next question is can the state afford this and where would the money come from?

Washington is expected to take in nearly $3 billion more in revenues in the next two years. But much of that money is already obligated and the Supreme Court recently found the state in contempt for not fully funding public education.

The next step is for the union members to ratify the agreement. And then in November the governor’s budget office will determine if the contract is “financially feasible.” If so, then the legislature would get the final say with an up or down vote, but no ability to tweak the contract.