(The Center Square) – The Minnesota House today approved House File 2768 by a 74-60 vote, seeking to ratify labor agreements and compensation plans for the current contracts of about 50,000 current state employees.
HF 2768, if enacted into law, would ensure a 2.25 percent raise effective last July to state employees and give a 2.5 percent raise for this July.
“Our state employees provide essential services for the people of Minnesota — including critical work on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic,” House Speaker Melissa Hortman said in a statement. “The Legislature should ratify these contracts, which were negotiated in good faith and that have been in place for months.”
House DFL leaders backed the same contracts, pointing that the labor agreement costs were were included in the prior budget.
“During this economic crisis, we should protect these essential services and the basic economic security of the people we’re asking to step in to serve all of us,” House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, said in a statement.
The employees span from corrections officers to nurses.
The Senate must ratify the contracts before July 2020, or they would become void.
The contracts were reached before the COVID-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on the states’ budget.
House Minority Leader Rep. Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, said he appreciates the work of employees but that the state didn’t have the money to give a pay raise in 2020.
Minnesota’s projected $1.5 billion budget surplus in February dropped to a $2.5 billion deficit last week.
The new contracts would cost about $444 million in this budget process and $757 million for the next biennium, according to Minnesota Management and Budget.
Daudt pointed to the 640,000 Minnesotans who have filed for unemployment as a reason that state employees should keep the July 2019 pay raise but forfeit the July 2020 salary boost.
“What do we tell the Minnesotans that are out of work? Do we tell them we’re all in this together? Does this bill say that we’re all in this together?” Daudt asked.
Gov. Tim Walz said last week that all state employees pay accounts for about seven percent of the state’s budget.
Walz said he was leaving all options on the table for budget cuts.
Rep. Pat Garofalo, R-Farmington in a Facebook post called the bill fiscally irresponsible.
The bill moves to the Senate, where Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, has previously encouraged the government to renegotiate the second year of worker contracts.