No job layoffs for Island County despite state budget impasse

Human resources director: “We have to do this cruel dance. I just hate it”

County workers facing lay-offs should the state Legislature fail to pass a budget June 30 will remain on the job and get paid.

Island County commissioners approved this week paying 34 county employees whose salaries are fully or partially funded by state grants. Programs operating with state money will also remain up and running.

Commissioners made the unanimous decision at a Wednesday work session.

“It’s not (the employees) fault and we have the budget capacity to carry them through the end of July,” Commissioner Jill Johnson said.

The county expects to get reimbursed from state agencies after the 2018-2020 state operating budget passes.

Washington state faces its first partial government shutdown if the impasse over funding education is not resolved by June 30, the end of the current fiscal year. About 32,000 state employees are being warned they could be temporarily laid off.

The 34 Island County employees received layoff notices that were mailed Monday. Seven of them would have lost their jobs, while 27 faced reduced hours and/or loss of health insurance, Human Resources Director Melanie Bacon told commissioners.

They work in human services, public health, justice and court services and Washington State University extension program.

“We all believe the state will pass the budget on time,” Bacon said in an interview. “But, we have to do this cruel dance. To scare employees and their families like this, I just hate it.”

On Wednesday, Gov. Jay Inslee called the Legislature into a third special session.

If lawmakers don’t agree on a budget and get Inslee to sign it by June 30, most state government agencies will either fully or partially shut down starting July 1.

Lawmakers must comply with a 2012 state Supreme Court order that directs them to budget for basic education costs, such as teachers’ salaries, instead of relying on local school district property tax levies.

Called the McCleary decision, lawmakers have failed during past sessions to solve how to fund basic education and taken the state to the brink of shutting down.

In 2015, lawmakers passed a new two-year budget on June 30; in 2013, the budget passed June 28.

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