Thompson: Union Wages Among 'Biggest Contributors' to Spending Issues

Lakeville Republican State Senator Dave Thompson, who also represents the Dakota County precinct of Northfield, discusses union wages in a guest column on Northfield Patch.

Editor's note: The following is a guest colmun from Lakeville Republican State Senator Dave Thompson, who also represents the Dakota County precinct of Northfield.

The joint legislative Subcommittee on Employee Relations recently rejected the contract proposals recommended for two public employee unions by Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB). Therefore, the parties to the contract need to go back to the negotiating table to try and craft a compromise that is acceptable to the legislature.

As everyone knows, wages, salaries and benefits have stagnated for most employees in the private sector. And of course many people have been laid off and are unable to find any work at all. Nevertheless, MMB proposed a deal that would have resulted in significant pay increases for members of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 5 (AFSCME) and the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees (MAPE). In addition, members would have maintained 100 percent health insurance premium coverage for employees, and 85 percent coverage for dependants. 

Everyone agrees that public employees should be fairly compensated. However, those same public employees should not do far better than the folks who pay government’s bills. The average annual Minnesota state government employee’s salary is $55,822, compared with $45,260 in the private sector. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, private sector employees pay an average of 21 percentof their own health insurance premiums. Minnesota state employees pay just 9 percent of their premiums. Despite these compelling numbers, the Administration agreed to raises for AFSCME and MAPE employees of between 7 percent and 9 percent! And employees would not be required to contribute any more to their own health insurance.

Even without this new contract, approximately half of AFSCME and MAPE employees will receive a raise of 5 percent to 7 percent over the next two years.  These increases were built into the previous contract. Only employees that are at the top of the salary range for their positions will not receive a raise.

Republican legislators remain committed to bringing the cost of state government under control. Public employee benefits and salaries are among the biggest contributors to spending growth that is unsustainable. Rejecting these contract proposals is one more piece of the puzzle that must be in place if we are to work toward a government structure that can be maintained into the future, and facilitate the economic growth necessary to keep all Minnesotans employed.

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