Democratic Governor Chet Culver has struck a tentative deal with the largest union for state workers. It’s a deal which would boost the base pay for about 21,000 state workers by two percent on July 1.
Republicans are blasting the deal. House Republican Leader Kraig Paulsen says with other negotiated “step” increases in the proposed contract, some employees could see pay hikes of up to 15%. “I’m awful disappointed that those negotiations were completed,” Paulsen says. “That’s adding $100 million to each (year’s) budget as we go forward.”
Union bargaining team members are scheduled to meet later this month to review the deal Governor Culver has accepted.
A spokesman for Governor-elect Terry Branstad calls the contract proposal a “backroom deal” that is “unaffordable” — adding the threat that Branstad would review all his options for getting out of the deal Culver is trying to strike. Paulsen says Culver has thumbed his nose at precedent.
“Governor Culver should have permitted Governor Branstad to complete those negotiations just like Governor Branstad showed Governor Vilsack that courtesy 12 years ago,” Paulsen says. “Regardless, what’s done is done and we’ll have to move forward.”
That likely means state employee layoffs, according to Paulsen, who says the state can’t afford the more than $100 million price tag for the pay-boosting package.
“I think it’s going to lead to layoffs in certain areas,” Paulsen says. Some of those layoffs may be sooner rather than later, as Paulsen says Republicans are plotting up to $300 million in cuts in the current year’s budget.
“We’re going to go through and we’re not kidding about looking at the current year’s budget with regard to reducing some of the spending, looking for opportunities to save money,” Paulsen says.
Danny Homan, state president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Union, calls it an historic agreement. “Because of two factors, AFSME presented the State of Iowa a very modest contract proposal with virtually no changes in that contract, and for the first time in my career, the state accepted the union’s first proposal,” Homan says, “so I believe that makes it very unique.”
Homan says the agreement was reached with outgoing Governor Chet Culver because that is what the law requires — that they submit a proposal and the state respond in 14 days. Homan says he is not happy with the Republican response to the contract.
“I’m disappointed that the newly-elected Republican leadership in the Iowa House is already resorting to threats of laying off state employees –of which we don’t have enough currently,” Homan says. “State employment in state agencies (is) running at a bare minimum and for the Iowa House newly elected leadership to be making those kind of threats — I believe that is completely inappropriate.”
A spokesman for Governor Culver says Culver “believes state workers deserve to be paid in accordance with their qualifications and efforts.” Culver’s spokeswoman also said Culver wants to “remind the public that union members agreed to take unpaid furloughs and suspension of employer deferred compensation contributions” last year.
(Additional reporting by Radio Iowa’s Dar Danielson.)