Republicans initially called the wage package negotiated with the state’s largest employee union reasonable, but have changed their tune and are threatening to change union bargaining rules. Language that forbids unpaid furloughs ensures worker layoffs according to Senate President Mary Kramer, a republican from Clive. Kramer says she’s “sad for many employees” because “their union leadership deserted them.” Kramer says younger, less-senior workers are going to bear the brunt of the temporary and permanent layoffs. House Republican Leader Chuck Gipp of Decorah says it’s premature to guess at how many state workers will lose their jobs, but he says the pay package has dealt a blow to efforts to spend more on education.Senate Republican Leader Stewart Iverson of Dows says the system negotiated for raising long-time workers’ pay is out of line with the private sector. Iverson cites the example of a state worker at a certain pay grade who was earning 37-thousand dollars in 1999 could see a 46 percent boost in the salary over six years. He says he doubts any employee in the state of Iowa would have the potential for a 46-percent increase in pay.But Governor Tom Vilsack defends the agreement in the face of republican lawmakers’ criticism.Vilsack says the contract could have been much more expensive if he had insisted on putting the contract negotiations in the hand of an arbitrator.Vilsack says the arbitrator has to pick one side or the other, and there was a “very real risk” the arbitrator would choose the union’s side, which would have provided a much more lucrative contract for state workers. Vilsack says union negotiations are “very complex” and “it’s easy to criticize.” Unlike legislators, Vilsack’s not ready to say layoffs are imminent. He says layoffs could come if legislators reject some of his ideas for collecting more state taxes, for instance to start trying to collect state sales taxes on Internet sales. Senate Democrat Leader Mike Gronstal of Council Bluffs says a 33 million dollar pay package for state workers is not exorbitant. Gronstal says it’s unfortunate that republicans are pointing the finger of blame for state budget woes at state employees.
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