Senate Backs Plan to Give State Employee Raises

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – The Senate on Monday endorsed an amended version of the governor’s plan to give pay raises to state workers who have been laboring under a multi-year wage freeze.

The original plan would have increased wages by 5 percent for two years. The House reduced that amount by 25 percent, leaving the governor’s office a lump sum of $113 million dollars to allocate in raises.

House Republicans originally tried to designate raises only to employees who hadn’t received increases during the pay freeze, but the House passed a version that would allow the governor’s office to use its discretion in distributing raises.

Senators from both sides of the aisle said House Bill 13 was a good compromise, including Sen. Jon Sesso, D-Butte, who attempted to put more money back into the plan with an amendment that failed.

Sen. Alan Olson, R- Roundup, said the measure would give hardworking employees a much needed raise.

The Senate gave its initial support of the measure in a 35-13 vote Monday.

The chamber also endorsed an amended version of House Bill 5, which allots money for building projects, with an initial 31-19 vote.

The amended measure includes $39 million for Missoula College construction and a new science building at Montana State University at Billings.

The bill also partially funds a land acquisition for Great Falls College.

But not everyone got what they wanted out of the deal.

An amendment backed by Sen. Christine Kaufmann, D-Helena, would have granted the Montana Historical Society $32 million to construct a new building.

It failed to get the Republican majority’s support.

Both measures will need to pass a final vote before facing Gov. Steve Bullock.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.