Washington furloughs state employees, cancels pay raises

Washington Governor Jay Inslee announced that a scheduled 3 per cent general wage increase for many of the state’s highest-paid general government employees will be cancelled, as the state faces a severe downturn in revenue collections.

Most state employees are scheduled to receive the general wage increase from July 1 as approved by Washington’s legislature last year, reports Xinhua news agency.

But under Inslee’s directive, cabinet agencies will cancel the pay raise for agency directors, Exempt Management Service and Washington Management Service employees, and all other exempt employees who earn more than $53,000 a year.

“COVID-19 has hit our state hard and our economy has taken a severe hit as a result. These are very difficult decisions but they are necessary to address the financial shortfall that we are facing,” Inslee said on Wednesday.

“In this current financial situation, everyone needs to make sacrifices.”

The cancelled pay raise will affect nearly 5,600 general government employees.

Other union-represented and non-represented classified employees will still get the general wage increase, according to the announcement.

In addition to cancelling pay raises, the governor also announced furloughs for most state employees.

Starting no later than June 28, more than 40,000 state employees will be required to take one furlough day per week through July 25.

After July, employees will be required to take one furlough day per month at least through the fall.

Employees will also be allowed to take voluntary unpaid furloughs.

The two actions together will save about $55 million over the next year, according to preliminary estimates.

Inslee also urged other agencies not under his authority, including higher education institutions, the legislature, courts, and separately elected officials, to adopt similar measures to save another estimated $91 million, according to the announcement.