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In a scene replicated throughout the state today, a small group of state workers held a rally on the muddy capitol lawn today, calling on lawmakers to look at raising taxes to offset some deep budget cuts.
“Hey hey, ho ho, an all-cuts budget’s got to go,” they chanted.
Given Washington’s $8.5 billion budget shortfall, state workers have virtually no hope of getting the 2 percent cost of living increases they’d expected for this year and next. At this point, they’re more trying to protect state jobs, programs and services.
“The only thing we’re concerned about is what is quality of life going to look like under an all-cuts budget,” said the Washington Federation of State Employees’ Carol Dotlich.
Instead of a much bigger capitol rally, the union slated more than 60 similar events Tuesday across the state. Executive director Greg Devereux said the federation felt it was more important to relay the message from as many lawmakers’ districts as possible.
Apparently getting the message were local Rep. Sam Hunt and Sen. Karen Fraser.
Hunt, who noted that state lawmakers are state employees too, said the upcoming budget plan will be “drastic,” and that he’s lobbying to layoff to start at the top, with supervisors. This drew a cheer.
“And as a last resort, we reduce line workers,” he said. “…because that is the guts and glory of state service.”
Fraser told the workers that it’s important to get out the message of how critical state services are.
“It’s very important that people understand this,” she said. “…Once these horrible cuts come out, you’re going to hear people talking about how important you are.”
A few hundred yards away, a smaller group of anti-tax advocates held a “Push back, no tax” rally of their own. With families across the state struggling with their budgets, people can’t afford more taxes, said the Evergreen Freedom Foundation’s Amber Gunn.
“It’s not an ideal world. This is reality,” she said. State revenue over the next two years is still forecast to increase — albeit barely — she said. And her side argues that the term “all-cuts” is misleading when the state will actually collect slightly more money than in the last two years.
“A reduction in an increase is not the same thing as a real decrease,” said Gunn.
Both sides plan more — and bigger — rallies in the coming weeks.