Two local lawmakers joined fellow Republicans on Thursday in rejected a state employee contract proposal negotiated by DFL Gov. Mark Dayton's administration and labor unions.
Rep. Mike Benson, of Rochester, and Rep. Steve Drazkowski, of Mazeppa, serve on the Subcommittee on Employee Relations and voted against the contract. The committee rejected the contract 6 to 4 on a straight party-line vote. That means the full Legislature will have to vote on the proposal when it reconvenes in January.
The contract covers more than 27,000 employees represented by two unions — the American Federal of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees.
Republicans spoke out against the plan, which included a 2 percent across-the-board pay increase and tenure-based pay increases known as "steps."
“Wage increases based on seniority are a poor proxy for rewarding performance,” Drazkowsi said in a written statement “Minnesota can no longer afford to reward people based on how long they have been in state service. A 7 to 9 percent increase in salary is simply unsustainable, particularly looking into the next biennium.”
Under that agreement, individual state employees would not have to contribute anything toward their health insurance coverage. Republicans argue it's time these employees start chipping in.
Democrats on the committee said this is the latest example of union bashing at the hands of Republicans. State Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, issued the following statement after the vote:
"Today anti-union extremists chose to attack a fair and modest contract for our hard-working employees. Unlike the legislators who constantly attack them, state employes have sacrificed. State employees lost $65 million in wages — nearly 6 percent pay cut — during the Republican government shtudown last year."
State employees will continue to work under the terms of an existing contract that expired in June 2011.
The proposal included a 2 percent across-the-board pay raise for employees beginning next year. It also allowed for tenure-based pay increases known as "steps."