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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

April 12, 2009 at 4:49 PM

State and county budget cuts

Public safety should be highest priority

What is it that our governor and legislators don’t understand? The first responsibility of any government is public safety. Yet every time there is a budget shortfall, the first to go on the chopping block are the police and firefighters [“Tough times take bite out of criminal justice,” page one, April 9].

Now they want to close a prison and youth facilities, and reduce sentences and supervision of paroles. What’s next?

This is irresponsible government and the people should demand that our elected officials do the job they’re paid to do.

I recently read an article in The Times that stated our state spends millions of dollars each year for medical care for illegal aliens [“Immigrants’ economic drain disputed,” NW Thursday, April 9]. Want to save money? Start here and stay away from public safety.

— Welland B. Scott, Kirkland

Cutting wage increases: a shallow reactionary plan

The Times editorial titled “King County’s riches” [Opinion, April 7] backs a proposed county ordinance from King County Councilwoman Kathy Lambert to eliminate negotiated cost-of-living (COLA) increases during a revenue shortfall. This proposal ignores past employee sacrifices and negotiated trade-offs. Further, the statistics used in support should be an embarrassment to The Times’ editorial board.

As a bus driver and member of Amalgamated Transit Union 587, I have an obvious bias, but I also have some information for you to consider.

First you note that county employees receive “step increases” along with COLA increases. True, but only because management negotiated union concessions to create a lower starting wage for new hires.

The transit contract requires employees to work six years before they reach the top step. The majority of transit workers are bus drivers who also start as part-time, working only two-and-a-half per day. They must work a split shift to increase their hours. If they go full-time, they must then work nights, weekends and holidays to reach the top-step wage. Do you propose that the county give up the productivity of a lower starting wage?

As for COLA increases, they are based on an arbitrary index in which the top step does increase, but these are not exactly A.I.G.-type bonuses. The unions have negotiated for decades and have settled today for minimal, single-digit increases that would be completely inadequate if we experience double-digit inflation. Does Lambert propose to give up the county’s protection against inflation if employees are deprived of the minimum?

It should be noted that COLA increases come only after inflation and workers have been behind on this cycle since it started, and county employees only get 90 percent of the increase. Why? Because the county agreed to pay 100 percent of the monthly benefits premium.

Finally, I would like to point out that comparing the county’s benefit premium with the state’s is grossly unfair. The sate has a far larger group, which results in an enormously reduced premium. They’re called “group plans” for a reason.

Instead of investigating and getting involved in the difficult policy issues of contract negotiations, Lambert proposes a shallow and reactionary ordinance. The Seattle Times should be embarrassed for piling on without doing the minimal analysis needed to see that this idea is bunk.

— Daniel T. Linville, Graham

Comments | More in King County, Washington Legislature

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