State workers stage protest over possible furloughs: 'The stress is huge'

OLYMPIA -- There is still no budget agreement in Olympia and, with the clock ticking to a June 30 deadline, state workers are taking to the streets.

Workers at agencies around the state protested on Thursday, demanding that lawmakers get a deal done, with 25,000 of them facing furloughs if that doesn’t happen.

“It’s going to hurt us and it’s going to hurt us hard,” said Lenni Marrotte, who works in the state Employment Security Department. If she’s laid off, she simply doesn’t have the savings to survive.

“You’re talking about not paying my bills, not paying my mortgage. The stress is huge. And it’s not just with me. It’s with everybody.”

Ginger Bernethy, another state worker, is worried about the thousands in need around the state who would see service disrupted.

“There is not a state government agency that isn’t helping a citizen somehow,  someway,” said Bernethy. “And all of those hundreds of thousands of people are going to be without assistance.”

While legislators continue to negotiate, the state is making plans for a shutdown, including closing state parks, shutting down 30 agencies, and partially closing 25 others. But the pain also trickles down to the local level.

Tacoma-Pierce County Health receives state money for several positions and programs.

“Come July 1, about one in nine of us will be temporarily laid off,” said Dr. Anthony Chen, the agency’s director.

The health department would be forced to suspend several of its services, including testing for water quality at lakes and beaches.

“We’re talking about impacts to people who may want to go swimming and may not know if there’s a toxic algae bloom at the lake.”

Chen is hopeful lawmakers will get a deal done.

State workers like Lenni Marrotte say it’s critical.

“They’re going to get it done. That’s what their expectation is. Just like my boss expects me to come in and get my job done.”