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Committee approves pay raises for Wisconsin state workers

Committee approves pay raises for Wisconsin state workers
Posted at 12:48 PM, Feb 14, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-14 13:48:12-05

MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- A legislative committee approved raises for thousands of state workers, signing off on a general 4 percent increase for workers over the next two years as well as increases for nearly 200 positions making less than their private-sector counterparts.

The Joint Committee on Employment Relations unanimously approved a compensation plan that calls for a 2 percent general increase in mid-2018 and another 2 percent general raise at the beginning of 2019.

The plan also includes raises for 193 positions that the state Division of Personnel Management believes earn significantly less than their private sector counterparts. The raises range from 30 cents to 75 cents per hour; about 3,600 state workers will receive them, DPM Administrator Greg Gracz told the committee. Prison guards will see their pay ranges increase as well.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, the committee's co-chairman, said GOP economic reforms have put the state in a position to provide wages. Senate Democratic Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling chastised Vos for repeating Republican "talking points."

No one from the public spoke about the raises before the committee. Matt Kussow, executive director of Badger Advocates, a group of UW-Madison alumni and supporters, said in an email to The Associated Press that the pay plan will help the school remain competitive.

Dorothy Farrar Edwards, a UW-Madison kinesiology professor who leads PROFS, a UW-Madison faculty organization, submitted written remarks to the committee calling the 4 percent increase a "much-needed boost" for UW-Madison employees but warned peer universities still pay professors and other university workers considerably more.

"Other universities are well-aware that our faculty are severely underpaid, and those universities are aggressively recruiting faculty," she wrote.

The committee also voted unanimously to approve bills that would hand unionized state construction and other building trade workers a 1.26 percent raise. Those bills would have to clear both houses of the Legislature as well as win Gov. Scott Walker's signature before the raise could take effect.

Maggie Freespirit, an assistant business agent with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 159, complained to the committee that state construction workers are still making far less than their private sector counterparts and she believes they're being penalized for being union members.

Walker signed a bill in 2011 that stripped most public workers of almost all their union rights. The measure allowed union workers to negotiate only base wage increases based on the rate of inflation.