Most pay increases for state employees no longer need legislative approval
Many Republican lawmakers continue to be surprised by changes in state law approved by the Democratic-controlled Legislature, including a change in the Legislature’s ability to approve or reject most state employee contracts.
“The interim approval portion is taken away,” Rep. Marion Rarick, R-Maple Lake, said during a meeting of the Subcommittee on Employee Relations on Tuesday. “The ratification of the legislature has been taken away. It’s just sort of on auto-pilot.”
Sen. Erin Murphy says the law was changed because state employee contracts often became bargaining chips on unrelated legislation at the end of legislative sessions.
“Including the ways in which that decision-making became a leverage point in the last decade or so leaving public workers sort of hanging in the balance regarding their pay increases,” Murphy said in response to Rarick’s concerns.
The committee reviewed collective bargaining agreements covering most state workers, including 5.5% raises the first year and 4.5% the second year. In addition, 3.5% performance-based pay increases are also possible.
In total, raises for some workers could reach 17% over two years.
“17% over a biennium,” said Sen. Mark Koran, (R) North Branch. “There’s no one in the private sector getting that.”
“These compensation plans are enormous,” Rarick added. “These are the biggest I’ve seen in the 11 years I’ve been here.”
Murphy and other Democrats on the committee say the state needs to be competitive with the private sector and points out the highest raises are only going to the best employees. “People have to earn that through their work. So it’s not an automatic 17% increase over a biennium for everybody.”
There are still a few thousand state workers whose contracts are subject to legislative approval.