Friday, December 17, 2010

Stop the Lies!

AFSCME President Gerald McEntee recently announced the union is launching a "Stop the Lies" campaign aimed at those who seek to degrade public servants in pursuit of their own agendas. In a column posted on the AFSCME Greenline Blog, McEntee described the union's campaign as follows:

"...By blaming public service workers and working families, the right wing tries to divert attention from the simple fact that reckless, unregulated behavior of multi-millionaires on Wall Street caused unprecedented state budget shortfalls, the loss of 15 million American jobs and the collapse of our economy.

We’re not going to let them get away with it. At this pivotal moment in the economic history of our country – indeed, the world – we cannot stand by and let corporate CEOs and their flunkies define the debate and shape the future.

Working families didn’t create class warfare. The facts speak for themselves: While median incomes in the U.S. have stagnated since the mid-1970s, incomes for those in the top 5 percent have more than doubled. In the past 10 years, with record-breaking tax cuts for the wealthy — incomes for the top 1 percent have tripled. Economic bubble after economic bubble benefited a small elite while private sector workers watched their retirement security and health care benefits dissipate.

Now, after capping private sector workers and their unions in the knees, the rich and the right have set their sights on public services and the men and women who provide them.

That’s why AFSCME has created a campaign we’re calling 'Stop the Lies'... We aim to remind the country that attacking public services and public service workers will not fix our broken economy, create jobs or solve the growing income disparity in America."

You can join the campaign by watching the new video and by signing on to the Stop the Lies open letter.

-- Dennis

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tim Eyman Wants You To Stay Home On Saturday

Tim Eyman and his corporate cronies are waging a war on public servants, as well as public services, on the ballot in 2010. If some of the initiatives on the ballot this year come to pass it will have a devastating affect on the entire state. But, thanks to the power of solidarity, we can join other union members all across the state to show ol' Eyman that we've got a lot of fight left in us.

As our old friend David Groves at the WA St Labor Council reported, "Labor Neighbor is making its final push this weekend to stress to all union members the importance of voting this election -- and supporting candidates and causes that advance their best interests."

Union members will be conducting neighborhood walks this Saturday, Oct. 30, from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm, in Bellingham, Everett, Olympia, Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma, Vancouver and Yakima. There are also walks scheduled for Sunday and Labor Neighbor phone banks are running every day through election day.

A complete schedule of activities, along with a list of locations and local coordinators, can be found here. For more information, contact the WFSE Legislative & Political Action Department, at 1-800-562-6002 or, or your local WFSE field office.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

AFSCME Rocks the 2010 Elections

The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that AFSCME is "now the biggest outside spender of the 2010 elections..." In a year when independent expenditures have dominated the election landscape, it's heartening to know that AFSCME is in there swinging on behalf of our members.

According to the Journal, "the 1.6 million-member AFSCME is spending a total of $87.5 million on the elections after tapping into a $16 million emergency account to help fortify the Democrats' hold on Congress. Last week, AFSCME dug deeper, taking out a $2 million loan to fund its push. The group is spending money on television advertisements, phone calls, campaign mailings and other political efforts..."

Some of AFSCME's war chest has been spent here in Washington state in this ad condemning Dino Rossi and in support of Patty Murray:

The most recent series of AFSCME-sponsored political ads -- airing in Colorado, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, and Pennsylvania -- can be seen in a recent post at Talking Points Memo. They are powerful and, I would think, very effective.

As the WSJ reported, "the union is spending heavily this year because 'a lot of people are attacking public-sector workers as the problem,' said AFSCME President Gerald McEntee. 'We're spending big. And we're damn happy it's big. And our members are damn happy it's big—it's their money,' he said."

-- Dennis

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

More Endorsements In Legislative Races

Our union has continued to interview candidates for the Legislature, and some additional endorsements have been made, although it hasn't always been easy. We've had interview sessions where members have met with all the candidates and then decided not to support anyone at this time. In other instances, endorsements have only been agreed to after lengthy discussion. It's a strange year.

The new endorsements added since my last update are as follows:

3rd LD House Pos 1: Andy Billig

6th LD Senate: Chris Marr

31st LD House Pos 1: Peggy Levesque

34th LD House Pos 2: Joe Fitzgibbon

40th LD House Pos 1: Tom Pasma

46th LD House Pos 1: David Frockt

In addition, our long-term warm relationships with Sen. Karen Keiser, 33rd LD, and Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, 36th LD, were affirmed when local presidents voted to endorse both.

We will continue to meet with candidates over the Summer. There are almost two dozen races we'll consider over the next few weeks. We'll try to keep you posted as we go. -- Dennis

Friday, June 11, 2010

More WFSE Endorsements

The reader(s) of this blog know that there were only a handful of politicians receiving an early endorsement at the WFSE Endorsements Conference in April. Our rules allow for additional endorsements, but it's a labor-intensive process.

There were a few candidates we endorsed for the House and who are now running for open Senate seats, and a phone poll of the appropriate local Presidents was executed to allow those endorsements to be transferred from House campaigns to Senate campaigns. This includes Steve Conway in the 29th LD, Maralyn Chase in the 32nd LD, and Scott White in the 46th LD. We're looking forward to working with these outstanding people in the Senate next year!

We've also been conducting interviews in a number of races, and some additional endorsements have been made following those sessions. Here is what has happened so far:

1st LD, House Position #2: Our members voted to endorse Luis Moscoso for this open seat. We also interviewed multiple candidates for the House Position #1 open seat, but no endorsement decision was made.

22nd LD, House Position #1: Our members interviewed multiple candidates and voted for a dual endorsement of Stew Henderson and Chris Reykdal for this open seat.

27th LD, House Position #1: Our members interviewed a number of candidates in this race and voted to endorse Jake Fey.

In the next few days we will be interviewing candidates in the open seats in the 34th LD, House Position #2, and 40th LD, House Position #1.

Lots more interviews are in the works, and we'll try to keep everyone posted as we go. Thanks to all of the members who have participated in the interviews -- and thanks in advance for helping with the interviews yet to come. -- Dennis

PS: A running list of all WFSE political endorsements (so far) can be found on our web site here.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

WFSE Rocks COPE -- Now What?

WFSE members made a huge impact at the WA St Labor Council’s biennial COPE Convention. COPE is where political endorsements on behalf of the entire state federation are debated and voted, and we had 90 members there, representing 26 different locals and over 32,000 votes. We didn’t have enough votes by ourselves to block an endorsement, but our delegates where highly motivated to send a message after two years of rough treatment.

According to Jordan Schrader, reporter for the Olympian, “Sending a message that Democrats in the Legislature can’t take unions for granted, the state’s largest labor group snubbed dozens of incumbents in its endorsements… Green-shirted state employees… successfully pushed for the council representing 400,000 public and private workers to sit out in some races where unions don’t see a champion.”

In the end, a 2/3 vote to endorse was achieved in just 45 out of 123 possible legislative races. In the House, 38 endorsements were given, including 21 incumbent Democrats and one incumbent Republican (Rep. Tom Campbell). In the Senate, seven endorsements were given, including two incumbents (Sen. Karen Keiser and Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles).

As Publicola pointed out, “the WSLC’s relationship with the Democratic leadership has corroded over the last two sessions in Olympia… [and] the WSLC has actually been threatening payback ever since last year…” For many union members, this was their first real opportunity to voice their displeasure. For WFSE members, it was the first time in two years they truly felt empowered.

Of course, the decision to withhold endorsements is not without risk. As Schrader wrote, “the question for labor is: Back Democrats across the board, including the ones with the toughest fights on their hands, to help the party keep its majorities in the House and Senate? Or single out only a few proven friends? State employees are particularly set against spreading money out among Democrats. Two rounds of budget cuts, including layoffs and furloughs, have left them unhappy with many legislators.“

Our members believe we have been too generous with our endorsements in the past and they want to be more selective this year, but that is the harder path. First, the decisions over whom to support are fraught with peril and some mistakes – both in terms of who is included as well as who is excluded – are inevitable. Second, there really isn’t clear, empirical evidence we can use to accurately tell the difference between who truly shares our values and who is just telling us what they think we want to hear.

Voting records are of limited value because the real decisions are made before a vote is taken. Our members are getting hammered in the discussions that occur behind closed doors, not in the votes taken on the floor – but those discussions are confidential so it’s impossible for us to document who is helping us and who isn’t when the real decisions are being made.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past year thinking about our endorsement process and how to make it better. The bottom line is I don’t think an objective set of criteria that truly discerns supporters from opponents really exists. Or at least I’m not smart enough to figure it out. So that leaves us (and any other endorsing organization if they’re honest with themselves) with subjective criteria, which is by its nature flawed as well.

Our members have decided to respond to these challenges by assuming “No Endorsement” as their default position, and only agreeing to deviate from that when they believe a candidate is willing to stand up for them when it really counts. Is this (new) approach risky? Absolutely. But we have had long internal discussions about those risks and still our members remain united behind this new approach. Where this will take us remains to be seen. – Dennis

Monday, May 10, 2010

Reactions To WFSE's Endorsement Conference

I haven't commented on the decisions made at WFSE's biennial Endorsement Conference, held on April 17, because Tim covered it well in the Hotline. The bottom line is out of more than 130 races considered, delegates voted to make just 27 endorsements -- including just 18 incumbent House members and one incumbent Senator.

Olympian reporter Brad Shannon wrote about our early endorsements in his blog, and again in a story that ran in several newspapers around the state. These articles have been circulated widely among political circles and, needless to say, we've been getting a lot of "feedback" since then. We've received quite a few phone calls and e-mails from insiders reacting to the decisions our members made, as well as numerous reports of Legislators who have been trashing us behind our backs.

Publicly, the Olympian followed up with an editorial a couple of weeks later speculating that WFSE members simply can't afford to withhold support from majority Democrats in the long run:

"To say [WFSE members] are unhappy is an understatement. But we suspect the union’s peevish behavior is more show than substance at this point. By fall we would expect union workers to fall into place and line up behind at least some of the Democrats they have snubbed.

What option do they have? Endorse a long slate of Republicans? That’s not likely... Slashing state jobs and forcing state employees to pay higher medical insurance premiums will remain high on the Republicans’ priority list...

For now, the Washington Federation of State Employees have sent a message to Democrats that union support is not a given. If they continue to withhold their support for Democrats, they could be inviting a Republican-controlled Legislature. For traditional allies that is... playing with fire."

Personally, I think the Olympian's editorial is fair, and I don't disagree with the premise. The idea that while the Democrats have been harmful to our members, the Republicans would be worse is the best possible counter-argument to our members' decision to give an early endorsement to just a handful of Legislators.

From the perspective of the delegates to the Endorsement Conference, the critical question is not which candidate is the "least worst" option. Instead, what they want to know is where were these Legislators when we were under attack? Were they one of the attackers? Did they sit quietly while other legislators were trashing us? Were they more concerned about protecting their chairmanship, or winning elections, or "keeping their powder dry" then they were about doing the right thing?

State employees are an easy target and everyone from the corporate elite to the intellectually challenged love nothing more than to malign public servants. We don't poll well, and we realize that. Of course, the public depends on the critical services we provide and maintaining a qualified work force is essential to the job. Yet there are very few elected officials who have the courage or the insight to rise above bumper-sticker politics enough to make sure the government is even capable of effectively implementing the programs we all care about.

A great example of the gratuitous knee-jerk reaction can be found in a recent editorial in the Columbian. According to the Columbian, WFSE members should receive "jeers" for withholding endorsements of incumbent Democrats because "the majority Democrats (traditionally the union’s closest friends) cut too much from the budget. They are especially unhappy about the Legislature imposing a few furlough days for some state workers... What the union should realize is that many voters see these state workers as suffering from a recessionary hangnail while many voters have a broken arm or worse. While many taxpayers would agree the Democrats shirked their duty, it’s hardly because the state isn’t spending enough."

The Columbian's analysis is so ignorant and shallow that I'm not going to waste my time responding. But there is one point on which we need to be clear: our members' anger with the Legislature runs far deeper than budget cuts or furloughs. We understand there is a global economic crisis, and we realize state workers will have to endure some cuts as a result. But what is more troubling to our members are the fundamental philosophical disagreements we have with many Legislators.

We have endured two sessions of constant attacks. There have been repeated calls for increased privatization, re-opening collective bargaining agreements, amending collective bargaining laws, eliminating step increases, increasing health care costs, closing institutions, opposing bills to help workers form a union, and more. And this was just from the Democrats. The Republicans, by and large, have spent the past two sessions attacking the Democrats for not treating state workers worse.

We expected to be confronted with budget cuts and compensation reductions. We didn't expect to find out that large numbers of the elected officials whom we have supported in the past -- from the Governor, to almost all of the Senate, and including a large number of Representatives -- simply don't share our values. Whether we have been mistaken or mislead, the bottom line is we just don't agree.

Frankly, I think the "controversy" is lacking in substance. Those politicians who supported privatizing child welfare services, who fought to close DOC, JRA or DD institutions, who demanded furloughs or benefit cuts as a condition of a budget vote, or who opposed worker privacy and union organizing bills, should not be surprised to find they have lost our support. They have made it abundantly clear they disagree with us, and our members want to limit their support to candidates they agree with. What's so controversial about that? -- Dennis

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Our Candidate Endorsement Process

WFSE's biennial Endorsements Conference will be held Saturday, April 17, in Seattle. This conference will serve as the beginning of our process for making our union's endorsement decisions for candidates running for office this year.

There are a variety of ways that our union can make an endorsement in a political campaign, but each method is built on two common principles:

- All endorsements are based solely on state worker issues -- pay, benefits, job protection, contracting out, working conditions, etc. -- and nothing else.

- The endorsement process is democratic and participatory.

To help members understand how these decisions are made I thought it would be helpful to post our union's formal endorsement process, as adopted by our Executive Board, verbatim:

WFSE/AFSCME Council 28 may make endorsements for legislative, congressional and statewide candidates, and to support or oppose statewide ballot measures.

Endorsements may be made by the biennial endorsements conference, by the council executive board, by local presidents representing members residing within a specific jurisdiction, or by the Council 28 convention.

WFSE/AFSCME will strive to ensure as many member voices as possible are heard during the endorsement process. WFSE/AFSCME will strive to communicate to our members whom the council has endorsed and why.


The WFSE/AFSCME endorsements conference shall be held in even numbered years. Delegates to the endorsements conference shall be the executive officers, the executive board, and two delegates from each local. Local delegates must provide written documentation signed by their local president and secretary confirming their status as that local’s delegate.

Endorsement of a candidate shall be by a 2/3 vote of delegates. Endorsement of or opposition to a statewide ballot measure shall be by a majority vote of delegates.

The endorsements conference shall be presided over by the president, or his/her designee. Delegates will receive a recommendation from the executive director, or his/her designee, in each endorsement considered. Delegates will also receive recommendations brought forward by interview teams, if available.

All votes shall be by voice, except a division of the house may be ordered by the Chair or requested from the floor. A roll call will be ordered with 25% support of registered and voting delegates. If a request for a roll call is sustained, each local represented by a registered delegate will be entitled to cast votes equal to that local’s most recent monthly per capita strength, and each Council 28 Executive Board member and statewide officer shall cast one vote.


The WFSE/AFSCME executive board may make endorsements that are not in conflict with decisions made by the endorsement conference. Endorsement of a candidate shall be by a 2/3 vote of the executive board. Endorsement of or opposition to a statewide ballot measure shall be by a majority vote of the executive board.

The executive board will receive a recommendation from the executive director, or his/her designee, in each endorsement considered by the board. The executive board will also receive recommendations brought forward by interview teams, if available.


Endorsements for legislative offices may be made by a 2/3 affirmative vote of the executive director and local presidents representing ten or more members in the appropriate district, or their designees. Endorsements made by the executive director and local presidents may not conflict with decisions made by the endorsements conference.

Local presidents will be asked to appoint up to two delegates to interview teams when applicable. Interview team delegates will have the authority to vote for or against an endorsement on behalf of their local. If there are not enough locals present at the interview to reach the 2/3 threshold, local presidents will be polled until it is determined whether or not an endorsement will be made.

Local presidents will receive a recommendation from the executive director, or his/her designee, in each endorsement considered.


The WFSE/AFSCME convention may make endorsements for legislative, congressional and statewide candidates, and to support or oppose statewide ballot measures.

Endorsement of a candidate shall be by a 2/3 vote of delegates. Endorsement of or opposition to a statewide ballot measure shall be by a majority vote of delegates.

Delegates will receive a recommendation from the executive director, or his/her designee, in each endorsement considered by the convention. Delegates will also receive recommendations brought forward by interview teams, if available.


Where advisable, teams of WFSE members will be assembled to interview candidates and make recommendations regarding endorsements. Interview teams shall use a standardized questionnaire, provided by the council, to ensure consistency. An interview team may formalize a recommendation by a majority vote.

Understanding how the endorsement process works is important. But perhaps equally important is to understand how individual members can have an impact on the union’s endorsement decisions.

Most endorsement decisions are made by delegates representing local unions, so the first thing a member interested in getting involved should do is communicate with their local president.

- Find out how your local selects its delegates to the Endorsements Conference and participate in that process. Amazingly, some local unions don’t send any delegates to the Endorsements Conference, so getting involved at the local level is oftentimes very beneficial.

- Volunteer to participate as a representative of your local on candidate interview teams. Again, some locals don’t participate at all in the interview process, and local presidents sometimes have a hard time finding someone who is willing and able to serve.

- Hold your president and your local union accountable for making sure your interests are being considered during the endorsement process.

Members interested in specific details about the Endorsement Conference should drop Diana a note. Naturally, any other comments, questions and suggestions are welcome as well. -- Dennis

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Questions To Ponder For Political Junkies

It's the time of session where we spend hours standing in the hallway. I might as well post some items of interest while I'm waiting.

> Can Democrats win back the support of labor?

Following up on a story I've mentioned before, NPR's Austin Jenkins reports that relationships remain uneasy between legislative Democrats and the labor movement. "The trick for Democrats is striking the right balance," writes Jenkins. "Just as they’re trying to mend fences with labor, they have to close another $2.6 billion budget shortfall and demonstrate to voters that they’re willing to take on entrenched interests... All of this is happening in a high-stakes election year. All House members and about half of state senators are up for re-election in 2010. Democrats need their base to be fired-up and ready to work."

> Will the 2010 be a year where voters turn against Democratic incumbents?

Ted Van Dyk at suggests incumbents generally, and Democrats in particular, could be in trouble in this year's elections. "To voters, 2010 elections, some nine months distant, are something only remotely in mind," Van Dyk says. "To elected officials, however, they are a consuming topic as they face what many sense to be the imminence of their hanging. Could presumed safe-seat incumbents, such as Sen. Patty Murray, be at risk? The answer, almost everywhere, is yes."

Van Dyk points out that trends are going against the Democrats now and, even though the election is still months away, there's reason to believe things aren't going to get any better between now and the election. "The message for Republicans is: Don't count political chickens before they hatch," Van Dyk concluded. "An anti-incumbent tide will not be enough to elect your candidates if those candidates are unattractive or appear unqualified... In 2010, however, hopes of GOP bumbling will not be enough to save incumbent Democrats running in perilous conditions. They will have to run hard and smart to keep their places."

> What's the difference between a "Blue/Green" legislator and a "Roadkill" legislator?

Jerry Cornfield of the Everett Herald reports that there are now competing sub-caucuses among legislative Democrats. "Centrist Democrats frustrated that their ideas and voices are routinely mashed by the Legislature’s liberals and conservatives are banding together," Cornfield writes. "They call themselves the Roadkill Caucus... They envision themselves staking out and securing a middle ground in heated philosophical debates sure to break out in the session’s pressure-packed final days... Historically, there have been many such caucuses within the Legislature. This year, they are most visible among Democrats who hold majorities in both chambers of the Legislature. Best known is the Blue-Green Caucus with roughly 20 House members whose political concerns are centered on labor and environmental issues."

Oh, well. Politics can be brutal, but it's never boring. -- Dennis

Rep. Williams Proposes Reducing Legislative Per Diem

SB 6503, the "furlough bill," has been sitting on the House floor calendar for several days now and could be brought up for a vote by the full House at any time. A couple of different amendments have been submitted but the most provocative is the amendment proposed by Rep. Brendan Williams (D-22).

Williams' amendment would "reduce the per diem compensation paid to legislators during the 2011 session by an amount equivalent to the reduction in employee compensation costs achieved under this act for the average legislative employee." In his Feb. 5 Legislative Update, Williams wrote:

"So while a financial industry that taxpayers bailed out resumes showering record bonuses upon executives, we’re to somehow blame our state’s budget shortfall on . . . state employees in charge of child support enforcement? Mental health nurses? Community corrections officers? Audiologists at the School for the Deaf? Custodians? Social workers? Those processing unemployment claims? Community college professors? If politicians choose to pile more hardship onto the working-class families in my district, they should take some responsibility upon themselves."

Most folks don't realize that legislative staff voluntarily took furloughs last year to prevent layoffs, and now SB 6503 imposes even more furloughs on them [See Sec. 2(e)]. Legislators themselves can't be furloughed because the state constitution requires their salaries to be set by an independent commission, which is why Williams proposes reducing per diem. It's not "salary." -- Dennis

Saturday, February 6, 2010

It's Raining Cash Bonuses In the Attorney General's Office

Joel Connelly of the Seattle P-I recently reported that the Attorney General's office awarded $599,000 in cash bonuses to exempt employees in FY 2009 -- more than any other state agency. A spokesperson for Attorney General Rob McKenna, a Republican, is quoted as defending the bonuses as "a fiscally responsible and highly accountable form of recognition."

The Northwest Progressive Institute isn't buying it. "We've lost track of how many times we have heard Republicans both inside and outside of state government claim that state employees are too well paid and that government is wasteful. And yet, here we have a situation where state employees working for a Republican were given bonuses well after it had become painfully clear that we were facing an unprecedented budget crisis."

SHB 2998, sponsored by Rep. Larry Seaquist (D-26), extending the temporary ban on cash bonuses for state workers, was recently approved by the Senate Ways & Means Committee. We are grateful for the leadership of Rep. Seaquist, along with Rep. Mike Armstrong (R-12) and Rep. Sam Hunt (D-22), on this issue. -- Dennis

Will the Legislature Close Some Tax Loopholes?

A recent cover story in the Seattle Weekly went into some depth on the issue of tax loopholes. "Over the past two years alone," Rick Anderson reported, "[tax loopholes] have accounted for a record $98.5 billion in potential tax revenue the state never got... When Seattle Weekly detailed the breaks in a cover story six years ago, the headline was '$64 Billion Falls Through the Tax Cracks.' There were 503 tax breaks on the books then. Today there are 567. Thanks to new exemptions and inflation, the amount of uncollected taxes has doubled over the past decade."

Anderson notes that in the face of a major economic crisis, legislators are talking about closing some loopholes but it won't be easy. "Any major exemption repeals would be a course change for the legislature, which has been adding breaks at the rate of more than a dozen each year. Repeal may be in the air, but more than two dozen new exemption bills have already been offered this session."

Into the breach steps Rep. Ross Hunter (D-48), Chair of the House Finance Committee, who has introduced HB 3176. According to Brad Shannon of the Olympian, HB 3176 "would raise or protect up to $363 million in revenue in the next year by eliminating a series of tax exemptions."

Lightning quick, the Seattle Times launched the first counter-attack, warning Legislators "they had better not" raise taxes or close loopholes. The Times went on to argue passionately in defense of tax loopholes that benefit gold bullion dealers. "After considering the repeal of preferences, the Legislature should concentrate on spending cuts," threatened the Times. "This is not tax-party time. Legislators need to keep that in mind, particularly legislators up for re-election in November."

In spite of their heated arguments in defense of the wealthy, the Seattle Times is far from the greatest threat. Dozens of corporate lobbyists will be working diligently behind to scenes to reduce the size and scope of Hunter's bill. It's worth $363 million now, but the odds are good that it will represent a smaller total by the time it winds its way through the legislative process -- if it survives at all.

Some will argue HB 3176 goes too far, many others will argue it should go farther. But the truth is, HB 3176 is the first honest attempt at trimming back some loopholes in a long, long time -- and it should be celebrated as such.

For all WFSE members who have wondered why their wages are going backward while special-interest tax loopholes proliferate, HB 3176 is a bill we can get behind. So urge your legislators to support HB 3176. It's a long-overdue step in the right direction. -- Dennis

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Republican Response to Gov. Gregoire

Sen. Linda Evans Parlette (R-Wenatchee) gave the Republican response to Gov. Gregoire's address. Sen. Parlette said the state should be contracting out more services and criticized the Governor for renegotiating state worker contracts. "Employers and employees in the private sector are making sacrifices," said Sen. Parlette, "we in the public sector should share in the sacrifices as well."

-- Dennis

Gov. Gregoire's State Of the State Address

Governor Chris Gregoire gave her state of the state speech today, and for WFSE members it was a somber message. The following are a few excerpts that jumped out at me.

"In all corners of our state, families are struggling to survive the great recession. These people are good people. People who have always worked and now for the first time are filing for unemployment... The loss of jobs has created a ripple effect through social service agencies and the economy... For all these struggling families, we have a duty this session to rebuild the economic future of Washington."

"Washington families and businesses are cutting back and trying to do things smarter as they make do with less. Government must be smarter and more efficient as well... Like businesses today, we are cutting costs, reducing staffing and increasing efficiency by consolidating back-office support services like the motor pool, property management and technology. Now is the time to create a lean and effective government."

"Now is the time to have the courage to close institutions that may be an important fixture in a community, but are no longer cost effective, or whose services are no longer needed or can more effectively be provided elsewhere. I am asking you to close all or part of 10 state institutions. But we have more work to do, and this session will test our mettle.

First, I propose to close, or partially close, five correctional facilities. By more efficiently using the beds we have, we can save $65 million over four years, and not release a single offender prior to his or her earned release date. Further, I am requesting that we close two of our residential centers and provide the residents better care in our communities. In the 1970s, we had six state institutions serving 4,000 people. Today, with only one fewer, we serve 900. And finally I’m asking us to reduce the size of three juvenile institutions.

The last time the state closed an institution was in the 1970s. Now is the time — this session — for us to demonstrate, as difficult as it is, that Washington state government makes good business decisions, not political ones."

"Finally, rebuilding our future means we need to make sure our families are safe. We have been making progress. Our communities are safer today because we gave members of law enforcement the help they asked for in dealing with sex offenders. They have done an admirable job. Last year, more than 28,000 address verification visits were made, resulting in more than 800 arrests for failure to register and 1,700 arrests made on other warrants."

"These are serious days ahead. Too many families today are getting layoff notices. Watching unpaid bills pile up. Losing health care. Telling their kids they can’t attend college. Standing in line at the food bank. Or dipping into a dwindling savings account just to get by. Let’s not waste their time or the crisis... It is not going to be easy. The decisions we have to make will not always be popular. But we have a duty to our struggling families and businesses to help build a bright future for Washington."

You can see the Governor's speech for yourself. [Note: Scroll ahead about 35 minutes.]

-- Dennis