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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spin Control

Close vote on changes for part-time state workers

OLYMPIA -- A proposal to allow the state and local school districts to have their part-time workers get medical insurance through "Obamacare" barely cleared the Senate today.

Senate Bill 5905, which allows the state and school districts to bargain with their part-timers to be switched to the coming health insurance exchange, passed on a 25-23 vote, but only because some Republicans who normally oppose the federal Affordable Care Act voted to support it. Many Democrats, who generally support the exchange, said they were opposed to allowing state and school workers to be pushed into an untested and at this point incomplete system.

The bill attempts to save the state money by moving part-time workers out of the state-sponsored health insurance systems if the workers will agree to get their own insurance through the exchange, which will be set up to help individuals and small businesses find affordable coverage. They'll be offered raises to cover some of the increased costs of that insurance.

The exchange won't be operating until late this year.

"The exchange is not functioning yet," Sen. Karen Keiser, D-Kent, said. "We can't make the decision today. . . Next year, let's look at it again."

But the Senate budget proposal relies on $127 million in savings by shifting part-time workers in state agencies, public schools and state colleges and universities to the exchange.

As votes were counted and the measure appeared in jeopardy, several senators, including Mike Padden, R-Spokane, switched from no to yes. 

Jim Camden
Jim Camden joined The Spokesman-Review in 1981 and retired in 2021. He is currently the political and state government correspondent covering Washington state.

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