State employee contracts win committee approval

A two percent across-the-board pay hike for state employees is one step closer to reality. The joint Subcommittee on Employee Relations is recommending the Legislature approve state contracts for thousands of state employees. The plan would give a two percent raise to seven separate groups of workers, including AFSCME Council 5, the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, middle managers and corrections officers.

Supporters of the plan, including Sen. Jim Metzen, DFL-South St. Paul, defend the pay hikes. They say employees haven’t gotten a raise in three and a half years.

“This is a modest increase of two percent,” Metzen said. “These people deserve this modest increase.”

The committee voted six to three in favor of the contracts. All of the Democrats on the committee voted for the contracts. All of the Republicans present voted against it. Democrats, who won control of the Legislature in November, are expected to ratify the contracts this year.

That’s a dramatic difference from five months ago when Republicans controlled the committee and voted to recommend the Legislature reject the contracts.

Republicans on the committee complained that the pay hikes were too large and too broad especially since the state if facing a $1.1 billion projected budget deficit.

“We want increases but the way to get the pay increases for the public employees is to get the state back on sound fiscal ground and make sure these economies are solid before we start committing to multiple billions of dollars over the next many years with these contracts” Sen. Roger Chamberlain, R-Lino Lakes, said.

The employee compensation package has several more committee stops before the full Legislature approves them. The wage increase covers the current two-year budget cycle and would be retroactive to January 2nd of this year.

  • Chad Q

    I haven’t received a pay raise in over 5 years so what makes a state employee any more deserving of my money than I am? I can’t wait to pay even more for a worse Minnesota after the DFL is done taxing and spending this session.

  • Rick S

    Sorry to hear of your situation Chad but the state workers haven’t received a pay raise in the last 4 or 5 years either. While I understand you and many others are still hurting please be aware not everyone is in your situation and have received pay raises. As a state employee, rest assured we understand your sitiuation, we are currently in the same place.

  • Mara M

    This is welcome news. I would be interested in hearing more about how Dayton’s proposed inclusion of domestic partner benefits faired. Did that make it in or was it nixed?

  • Sharon

    State employees are further behind than most because they didn’t enjoy big raises in the boom years. For whatever reason, our across the board increases were extremely modest at a time others were getting hefty raises and bonuses.

    Be that as it may, all we workers need to join together and fight to get decent wage increases for all of us. We need to stop fighting amongst ourselves and trying to drive each other to the bottom of the barrel–because that barrel has no bottom and we will all sink in it if we don’t help each other rise out of it.

  • Jon

    This is good news. It is disappointing that it Covers the two-year budget cycle that started in July 2011, but is only retroactive to January 2012.

  • Heidi

    Jon – Just a small correction. The increase will only be retroactive to January 2013, not January 2012. Yet, it is still a blessing after several years of no increases.

  • Stephanie Reineck

    Raises in this economy? I don’t care that it’s been 3 years since they’ve had a raise, even without a raise public employees still make considerably more than private sector employees, given their salaries and cadillac benefit programs. This is outrageous, my husband and I are working hard to get out of this state and take our small business with us. I can’t wait, you’re scaring away all businesses and then who’ll pay for these jobs-good luck, MN will be the nextCalifornia-a shining success. Sad, where are the adults who understand budgets and fiscal responsibility, yeah, a raise would be nice…..maybe even deserved, but grownups who “manage” businesses well know that “wants” are not “needs”, I don’t think our MN legislaters know that……or just want to stay in power by giving away our kids’ futures to today’s greedy guses.

  • AG

    Stephanie, it is simply not true that state employees as a whole make more than private sector employees performing the same work.

    Sometimes entry-level employees and those in the lowest wage categories can make slightly more than their peers in the private sector when benefits are included. But that ground is quickly lost as these young professionals progress in their careers, receiving 2% raises every few years when the legislature’s feeling generous, while their peers at Minnesota’s leading corporations are receiving substantial salary increases, bonuses, and so on.

    I have a coworker who is in the very same profession as her husband, but she works for the state and he works for a mid-sized private employer. They started their jobs the same year, both still hold the same position they were hired into, have the same educational background, and in my subjective estimation, are equally ambitious and productive employees. 20 years down the road, he is earning $30,000 more per year than she is, and regularly takes home four-digit Christmas bonuses ($9000 last year!).

    As Sharon stated above, state employees didn’t enjoy the kind of profit-sharing that many public sector employees received during the boom years. They trade in the opportunity for big raises for the expectation that there will be regular modest bumps in pay as their professional skills develop over time. People who “understand budgets and fiscal responsibility” know that paying a competitive wage to employees is one of the costs of doing business. It’s not a “want”, it’s a “need”– lest the best talent walk out the door and go to work for your competitors.