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Coming back to a story that ran today, looking at the proposed union contracts and Step M, a 2.5 percent raise for which no state workers would qualify until 2012, after the contract expires. (Because you need 5 years at the previous step to move up, and Step L was created in 2007.)
Since the money would not be handed out in the same 2009-2011 biennium the contract covers, the Evergreen Freedom Foundation took exception to the proposal on their blog. Analyst Sonya Jones argued that amounts to binding a future Legislature, which is against the law.
I asked around, and got two different arguments for why it's not a problem.
Essentially, the Washington Federation of State Employees believes that the language about Step M acts as a placeholder, putting the state on record that it supports the new step. That should make it easier to keep the step in the 2012 contract, under which people would hit it.
But the Office of Financial Management says that Step M would be created in the next budget, if the union contract is approved by the Legislature. That no one would qualify simply means it doesn’t cost anything in the coming budget.
In that scenario, if the governor didn't want to pay for Step M, he or she would have to bargain it away.
UPDATE: Glenn Kuper at the Office of Financial Management called to clarify things. He said he mispoke yesterday, and the official position of the office is that there is no Step M in the next budget.
"The reason I was mistaken is because there really is not a Step M in existence in this contract. Rather there is the criteria laid out for how person would get into Step M if it was created," he said.
That should address the concerns about binding future Legislatures, because it lays out a plan for Step M, but does not place any obligation on the 2012 budget, Kuper added.