Go ahead, new state workers. Take a vacation this summer.
Gov. Jay Inslee says it’s OK.
A new state law he approved Thursday snaps an old rule that stopped workers from taking vacation time in their first six months on the job.
Now, as long as you’ve accrued time off, you can take it.
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The sponsor of House Bill 1521, Rep. Laurie Dolan, D-Olympia, said the measure is just “one more way to try to have people want to stay employed by the state of Washington.”
The bill was conceived as part of the collective bargaining agreements reached between Inslee and state employee unions last fall as a way to help entice new workers to the capital and keep new hires from taking other jobs.
The agreements, which still need legislative approval, would give most workers cost-of-living raises of about 6 percent and would cost the state $500 million during the same period.
The vacation time idea needed authorization from lawmakers, leading to objection from some Republicans who criticized Inslee for agreeing to a policy before it’s legalized at the Capitol.
Rep. John Koster, R-Arlington, said he believed the move was “a little bit disrespectful” toward the legislative process because it assumed the Legislature would pass the vacation time bill.
He still favors giving workers new flexibility on when to use personal days.
“This is not about the policy itself,” Koster said. “This is more about getting the cart before the horse here.”
Koster was one of 33 Republicans to vote against the bill when it passed the majority-Democrat state House.
Dolan said she wasn’t concerned with the process, especially since lawmakers still could vote down the labor contracts.
If lawmakers didn’t approve Dolan’s bill, the old policy would stay in place.
Enough Republicans did support the bill for it to pass. The GOP-led Senate approved it 44-5. Republicans control the chamber 25-24, with the help of one conservative Democrat.
The squabble was another example of how the labor contracts have been a flash point in the Legislature this year.
Senate Republicans refused to include the $500 million in worker pay raises in their two-year budget plan this year, saying they are too expensive and offering smaller salary hikes instead.
Republicans also have criticized the bargaining agreements for being negotiated without legislative input — lawmakers can give them only an up-or-down vote.
Some have attacked Inslee for taking campaign money from state employee unions while his office negotiates the worker contracts.
Inslee’s representatives have said negotiations are driven only by a desire to recruit workers and keep the ones they have by giving fair wages.
The governor also contends the raises are necessary, in part to fully staff Western State Hospital, which is struggling with safety and capacity problems.
Debate over the labor negotiations aside, there was no significant objection in the Legislature to letting state workers take vacation a little earlier.
Dolan’s bill will go into effect July 1.
Sometimes, in the first few months in a job, “life happens, you know?” Dolan said.
“Maybe your favorite sister is getting married and you want to be there,” she said.