State Workers Fight to Keep Health Benefits

“Right now, state workers’ coverage benefits are significantly below those of the Microsofts, the Fred Meyers, the other large employers in the state.”

The State of Washington currently pays 88 percent of employees’ health insurance premiums, and workers pay the rest. One option the state is suggesting changes the percentages to 80 percent-20 percent and raises deductibles from $750 per family to $1,500.

Instead, says Devereaux, the state could raise money for keeping employees’ insurance affordable by closing tax loopholes. He cites the tax exemption for professional sports stadiums as one example of a drain on the state budget, while state employees have watched their wages and benefits erode.

“State employees are saying, ‘My workload has increased. My pay has decreased by 5 percent in the furloughs. I took a $1,100 hit last year in health care benefits – and now you want to tax me further?’ State employees are angry. They feel like it’s a tax.”

The state says the budget crisis makes the changes necessary.

The next round of negotiations begins Tues., Aug. 24, at 9 a.m., at the Dept. of General Administration in Olympia.