GOP Blocks Plan to Grant State Employees Raises in 2012, 2013

Posted on March 22, 2011

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By CODY BLOOMSBURG

HELENA — A House panel voted Tuesday to table  a bill granting modest raises to nearly 12,000 state workers, an act that MEA-MFT President Eric Feaver called “reprehensible,” but not the end of the battle.

The pay plan, negotiated between three public employee unions and Gov. Brian Schweitzer would have granted workers a 1 percent increase effective Jan. 1, 2012 and a 3 percent increase on Jan. 1, 2013.

Feaver, whose union represents teachers and others, said state workers would have lived with a pay freeze for three years by the time they received the first increase.

While no one on the House Appropriations Committee questioned the frugality of the deal, Rep. Rob Cook, R-Conrad, and Rep. Randy Brodehl, R- Kalispell, said they couldn’t go along with a pay raise for public employees, however modest, while people are still struggling to make ends meet in the private sector.

But Feaver said there is no way this decision can stand.

“It can only be a rebuke more than anything else,” he said. “I can’t believe for a moment that what this Legislature would do would be to condemn its state employees to five years of pay freeze and no increase in employer provided health care.”

Feaver said there are no plans or talk of state workers striking, but he believes the Legislature has a lot of work to do on many issues before it can punch the clock and go home, the tabled pay plan just makes one more unfinished job.

“I refuse to take this as the last word and I don’t think any state employee should take this as the last word,” Feaver said.

Meanwhile, a House committee today heard a Saco Republican’s bill to close the state’s public retirement systems to new members and require that new state hires contribute to annuities for their retirement.

Rep. Wayne Stahl’s House Bill 608 is a response to a projected long-term deficit in state retirement funds caused by setbacks in the state’s investments in the stock market.

– Reporter Cody Bloomsburg can be reached at 208-816-0809 or by e-mail at crbloomsburg@hotmail.com

Posted in: Daily Grind