WA: Special Session Budget Negotiations Ahead; Will Part-Time State & Education Worker Benefits Move To The Exchange?

Yesterday marked the end of regular session for the Washington State Legislature (Sine Die). With the operating and capital budgets still under negotiation, Gov. Inslee has called for special session to begin May 13th in order to give both sides some more time to negotiate.

Among the many differences between the House and Senate operating budgets is a provision in the Senate version (SB 5905) to move some part-time state and education employees onto the Washington Health Benefit Exchange program.  The plan is expected to save the state money by effectively passing the cost of the workers’ health insurance onto the federal government since the income from part-time salaries would likely qualify many for federal subsidies. Gov. Inslee says the proposal needs further examination: “It’s one of those ideas that’s premature for us to launch this year, but I don’t think we should take it off the table.”

The proposal is drawing attention from around the country signaling that more states may attempt similar maneuvers in balancing their budgets. The Senate passed the bill before the end of regular session, but the House did not take it up. The fate of this and other bills necessary to implement the budget will be decided in the special session.