Jan 24, 2013 12:33 AM by Marnee Banks - MTN News

State workers ask Montana Legislature for a raise

HELENA, MT - It was the largest hearing of the day as state employees asked the Montana Legislature for a raise.

They included scientists from the State Lab, curators from the Historical Society and Karen Haubbert, a 10-year veteran at the State Title and Loan Registration Bureau.

"I make $9.90 per hour, only $0.85 more than someone who has worked there for less than six months," Haubbert testified before the House Appropriations committee.

Karen is like many state workers whose pay has been frozen for the past four years.

House Bill 13, the state pay plan, is estimated to cost the state $118 million dollars this budget cycle. It would give all state workers a 5% raise in 2014 and a 5% raise in 2015.

Last session the Legislature didn't pass a pay plan. Some state agencies used their budgets to give out raises. The Department of Administration reports about 50% of workers in the Executive Branch received pay increases.

But the sponsor of the bill, Representative Kathy Swanson (R - Anaconda) says this is about making sure all state employees are valued.

"This is your opportunity to act in good faith," she told the committee. "This is your opportunity to tell state workers that they have worth."

No one opposed the bill. So the testimony was left up to nearly thirty state workers like Steve Eckels who works at the Montana State Prison.

"It's about the mothers and fathers, the single parents who work at the prison that qualify for state aid," Eckels said. "It's about the nurses who dedicate their lives to go out and get the medication to inmates on a daily basis they are subject to feces and urine being tossed on them."

The House Appropriations committee will now decide whether or not pass a raise.


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