MADISON, WI Republican lawmakers rejected a proposed contract negotiated by Gov. Scott Walker’s administration that would have given state troopers a 17 percent pay raise on average, saying Thursday it would never get the votes necessary to pass the full Legislature.
Instead, Republican legislative leaders urged the troopers’ union and Walker administration to resume negotiations and reach a new deal with a raise closer to 3 percent.
“I’ve never seen a mess like we’re looking at right now and I don’t know how to get out of the box we’re in right now other than to have both sides go back to negotiating,” said Republican Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, whose father is the head of the state patrol.
Fitzgerald later said he thought the Senate would support a contract with a 3 percent raise. He encouraged both sides to come back in two months with an update.
But Glen Jones, vice president of the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Association that worked out the contract proposal, said a 3 percent raise wouldn’t be enough to stem the tide of troopers leaving for higher pay at other Wisconsin law enforcement agencies.
Trooper pay, which hasn’t gone up since June 2009, is not keeping up with inflation, let alone the pay of other police forces, he said.
“We can come up with something that’s more palatable to you,” Jones told lawmakers on the Joint Committee on Employment Relations. “But if it’s not more palatable to (troopers), they’re not going to be here anymore. They’re going to have to go somewhere else to pay their families.”
The 17 percent average pay increase doesn’t take into consideration higher health insurance costs negotiated under the contract, or costs associated with retirements, new hires and promotions, he said. With all of that factored in, the average raise would be closer to 11 percent, he said.
The higher salaries were not going to be spread equally across the 354 members of the patrol, but rather targeted to younger members to help stop them from leaving, Jones said. There are 34 current vacancies in the patrol.
The committee voted 5-2 to reject the contract, with all Republicans voting not to accept it and Democrats in favor of it.
Assembly Democratic Minority Leader Peter Barca argued that the full Legislature, which is controlled by Republicans, should have the opportunity to vote on the deal.
“I know it’s a heavy lift,” Barca said in arguing for the vote.
Contracts must be approved by the committee, the full Legislature and Walker. A spokesman for Walker’s administration, Cullen Werwie, offered no opinion on the panel rejecting the proposal. Instead, Werwie restated the fact that the vote now allows negotiations to resume.
Last month, Walker approved giving the 10 members of the state patrol division that protects him a $4-an-hour raise. Walker is able to do that without legislative approval.
State troopers were exempted from Walker’s 2011 law that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers except over pay increases no greater than inflation. Most state workers saw pay increases of 1 percent in both 2013 and 2014. Walker’s is not proposing any pay increases for the next two years.
The tentative agreement covered July 1, 2013, through June 30, 2015.
The committee did approve contracts with 1 percent pay raises for the Wisconsin State Attorneys Association and the Wisconsin State Building Trades Negotiating Committee.
From the Associated Press via the Star Tribune