Legislature moving ahead with state employee pay packageBISMARCK — An otherwise unremarkable state agency funding bill passed the Senate Tuesday afternoon that included a section having huge consequences for state government workers.
By: Janell Cole, The Dickinson Press
BISMARCK — An otherwise unremarkable state agency funding bill passed the Senate Tuesday afternoon that included a section having huge consequences for state government workers.
The unanimous passage of Senate Bill 2022, funding the state Seed Department, was hugely symbolic because it was the first state agency bill approved by either house this session and it contains a 5 percent state employee pay raise each of the next two years and continued full funding of employees’ health insurance premiums.
The Senate Appropriations Committee also unanimously approved what’s called “legislative intent” bill about state employee pay on Tuesday. It officially commits the Legislature to a 5 percent (each year) pay raise, $20 million worth of pay equity funds spread throughout state government and full funding of the health insurance premiums. It will be voted on by the full Senate in the next few days.
The amounts are exactly what Gov. John Hoeven proposed to legislators in his budget in December.
“It’s the right thing to do,” said Sen. Tony Grindberg, R-Fargo. He said that even though the state got a slightly lower revenue forecast Monday, “The economy is moving along” well in the state.
“It was time to give them this raise,” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Ray Holmberg.
House Majority Leader Al Carlson, R-Fargo, said the agency bills that the House Appropriations Committee is working on also will contain the 5-plus-5 pay increase.
Equity funding is a separate pot of money used to equalize certain employees’ pay that has become particularly out of sync with others in their department or pay grade.
For many years, state employee raises remained up in the air during legislative sessions until a major catchall known as the OMB bill was approved late in the session, carrying the pay directive for the subsequent two years.
Now, this is the second session in a row that the Legislature has committed to its pay policy early in the session.
“It’s a bipartisan message to state employees that we appreciate their work,” said Sen. Larry Robinson, D-Valley City. “It’s a good feeling to have that out there and state employees know they have strong support.”