Montana Senate backs bill for state employee pay raises

2013-04-15T19:45:00Z Montana Senate backs bill for state employee pay raises missoulian.com

HELENA – The Montana Senate on Monday endorsed a bill to provide pay raises for state employees over the next two years.

Senators rejected an attempt to add more money for the pay hikes to boost them closer to the levels that were negotiated last summer.

House Bill 13 by Rep. Kathy Swanson, D-Anaconda, passed 36-13 and faces a final Senate vote this week.

The bill does not include the specific, 5 percent, across-the-board raises in base pay over the next two years that former Gov. Brian Schweitzer and unions representing public employees agreed to in negotiations last summer.

Instead, the bill, as amended by the House Appropriations Committee last month and accepted by the full House and now the Senate, appropriates a lump sum of $113.7 million over the next two years for the executive branch to distribute in raises.

That ’s 25 percent, or $38.2 million, less than the $151.9 million in all funds that Gov. Steve Bullock had proposed in his budget to fund the matching 5 percent raises both years.

HB13 directs executive branch officials to pay “particular attention to the lower pay bands and those who did not receive base pay increases in the biennium beginning July 1, 2011.”

It would be provide the first increase in base pay for many state employees in four years.

However, more than half of the executive branch received separate pay raises under the broadband pay plan in fiscal 2012 during the Schweitzer administration.

House Minority Leader Jon Sesso, D-Butte, tried an unsuccessful amendment to plug $7 million more in general fund money into the bill.

“It’s coming up a little short,” he said. “We want to come as close as we can to providing that 5 (percent) and 5 (percent) to everyone.”

Sesso’s amendment also tried to direct the state Department of Administration to continue to include the private sectors of Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, North Dakota and South Dakota in its biennial pay surveys. An amendment in the Senate Finance Committee limited comparisons to state and local governments in the five states and stripped out the private sector.

His amendment failed 22-28.

Sen. Greg Jergeson, D-Chinook, said the Legislature should be approving the original pay plan negotiated by Schweitzer and the unions. However, no one offered such an amendment.

Senators voiced their frustration with the current way the pay raises are negotiated and how the broadband pay hikes were distributed in the Schweitzer administration.

“The whole problem is there is a negotiation that takes place, and this body isn’t at the table and is responsible for funding it,” said Sen. Rick Ripley, R-Wolf Creek. “Everyone in this body wants to make sure the people who didn’t get raises get one.”

Sesso called HB13 “a step forward,” even without his amendment, adding: “I would ask everyone to stand up for the hard-working people of this state.”

Sen. Alan Olson, R-Roundup, the main Senate sponsor of HB13, talked about the hard work that many state employees perform.

He agreed with Ripley the current pay plan system is broken.

“This bill doesn’t have everything everyone wants,” Olson said. “I wish Gov. Bullock good luck in trying to figure how to spread this out.”

Missoulian State Bureau reporter Charles S. Johnson can be reached at (406) 447-4066 or by email at chuck.johnson@lee.net.

Copyright 2015 missoulian.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

No Comments Posted.

Missoulian Civil Dialogue Policy

Civil Dialogue Policy for Commenting on Missoulian.com

We provide this community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Comments can only be submitted by registered users. By posting comments on our site, you are agreeing to the following terms:

Commentary and photos submitted to the Missoulian (Missoulian.com) may be published or distributed in print, electronically or other forms. Opinions expressed in Missoulian.com's comments reflect the opinions of the author, and are not necessarily the opinions of the Missoulian or its parent company. See the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy for more information.

Our guidelines prohibit the solicitation of products or services, the impersonation of another site user, threatening or harassing postings and the use of vulgar, abusive, obscene or sexually oriented language, defamatory or illegal material. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, disability or other classification. It's fine to criticize ideas, but ad hominem attacks on other site users are prohibited. Users who violate those standards may lose their privileges on missoulian.com.

You may not post copyrighted material from another publication. (Link to it instead, using a headline or very brief excerpt.)

No short policy such as this can spell out all possible instances of material or behavior that we might deem to be a violation of our publishing standards, and we reserve the right to remove any material posted to the site.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick