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FEATURE NEWS

FACING $21 MILLION BUDGET HOLE COUNTY WANTS EMPLOYEES TO TAKE UNPAID FURLOUGHS
November 20, 2008




Buddy can ya spare a dime? Nation and state face hard employment times in 2009
(EVERETT, WA) -- In a stark acknowledgement of the tough economic times the region faces next year the Snohomish County Council is planning to ask county employees to take voluntary ten day furloughs in 2009 to help the county deal with a projected $21 Million dollar budget deficit.

The council is scheduled to adopt the 2009 budget on Monday; a budget that assumes the economic recovery will come to the county in late 2009.

County union leaders and Snohomish County Auditor Carolyn Weikel have taken the position that furloughs won’t happen without negotiated labor agreements.

However without the employee furloughs county officials say they may have to lay off more than the projected 160 positions that are currently planned for elimination in 2009.

In King County, the County Executive Ron Sims negotiated with King County’s union leadership and reached an agreement calling for mandatory 10-day furloughs for all but essential employees.

Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon has not opened negotiations with the county’s unions over the issue of mandatory furloughs saying the County Council, as a body had not directed him to do so.

However in mid October Snohomish County Council Chairman Dave Somers sent Reardon a memo requesting Reardon to enter into immediate discussions with leaders of the county's labor unions to look into ways to reduce employee costs and save jobs.

SNOHOMISH COUNTY PROBLEM MIRROR STATE’S GRIM PROSPECTS

The stark revenue issues facing local counties like Snohomish mirror the grim reality of what is happening at the state level as America enters into what some analysts think maybe the worst recession in modern times.

New revenue projections have stunned state legislators who now face a projected $5 Billion dollar shortfall in the state’s next two-year budget.

State legislative leaders, shell-shocked by the new projection of a $5 Billion dollar hole in that budget, see deep and painful cuts ahead. By any terms it is an enormous hole and one described by Washington State’s Chief Forecaster Arun Raha as a financial crisis not seen in this state since the Great Depression.

Government does not produce wealth nor does it generate income from the sales of products or services as businesses do. The entire state infrastructure, as well as the operational structures of every city and county are entirely dependent upon consumers spending money to buy things like houses, cars, boats, real estate and gifts at Christmas time among many other things. And when they stop buying, the wheels of government slowly start grinding to a much slower tune.

More than seventy per cent of the money collected by the state to run its operations comes from sales and B & O taxes and those tax intakes are dictated by business activity, which in turn is fueled by consumer spending.

But Washington State is taking in less tax money because consumers, spooked about job losses, the national economy, mortgage foreclosures, dwindling 401K’s and declining home values have tightened their belts and are spending less – a lot less.

CONSUMERS HAVE DECIDED NOT TO PLAY THE GAME

At present however, and for the foreseeable short term, consumers have decided not to participate with their usual vigor in that mutually beneficial and time-honored tradition of spending most of what they earn so that governments can budget and operate without the cyclical employment ups and downs of private enterprise.

The new state forecast projects Washington will bring in about $500 Million dollars less than expected in the current two-year budget and that translates to revenues being down an additional $1.4 Billion dollars in the 2009-2011 budget. Legislators start writing that budget in January.

Just a few months ago in September state officials projected a $3.2 Billion dollar hole but the new projections bring the total shortfall to about $5 Billion dollars according to Victor Moore Governor Gregiore’s budget director.

If there is any silver lining to all this it comes from the state’s Chief Forecaster Arun Raha who expects a recession in Washington State to be shorter and more shallow that what happens across the nation.





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