State Workers

State furloughs pass Senate

The state Senate voted Friday to require state agencies to place workers on mandatory furloughs one day a month or offer alternative plans saving $69 million.

All four senators who represent a piece of Thurston County voted against the measure.

The final vote was 27-17 in favor of Senate Bill 6503, which exempts many public-safety agencies such as prisons, income producers such as revenue agents and liquor stores, and college classrooms.

No Republicans voted for the measure.

It now goes to the House, where budget writers and Speaker Frank Chopp support the general idea of furloughs.

Sen. Karen Fraser, D-Thurston County, spoke on the floor, saying it was unfair to single out workers in some agencies for cuts.

“This is a sad day,” she said, calling it a premature decision that should wait until other budget options, including revenue enhancements, are explored. “We are targeting one area of the budget. … We are targeting employees who do the work to provide direct services to the citizens of our state.”

The other local senators – Republicans Randi Becker of Eatonville and Dan Swecker of Rochester, and Democrat Tim Sheldon of Potlatch — also voted against it. Sheldon often sides with Republicans on economic matters.

Fraser contended that there was an “arbitrariness that we’ll be sorry about’’ with the bill.

And she said there is irony: “While we are trying to create family wage jobs in this state, this will reduce them.”

Democratic Sen. Rodney Tom of Medina – who, like Fraser, is a vice chair of the Senate Ways and Means Committee – said the goal is to save jobs by spreading pain in the form of a pay cut of about 5 percent over the 13-month period that begins in June.

Brad Shannon: 360-753-1688