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State Employees Urge MT Lawmakers to Approve Modest Raise

A bill in the Montana House would increase wages for state employees by one-percent, both in 2017 and 2018. (J Haeske/Flickr)
A bill in the Montana House would increase wages for state employees by one-percent, both in 2017 and 2018. (J Haeske/Flickr)
March 29, 2017

HELENA, Mont. – State workers are calling a bill to increase salaries by one percent over each of the next two years a modest raise, critical for Montana's 14,500 state employees. House Bill 13 was negotiated before the session between MEA-MFT, the Montana Public Employees Association, AFSCME and the governor's office.

Tom Fulton, a probation and parole officer in Billings, says state employees across Montana and in every department have bigger workloads. However, the state is struggling to make pay competitive and bring in more workers.

He says Montana's prisons are an example of how this burdens employees.

"I know that Montana state prison employees are having to work mandatory overtime shifts because they're still struggling to get employees to be able to work at the prison," Fulton said.

The bill includes $3 million for the state university system, providing a raise of about one-half percent over each of the next two years for employees. In total, HB 13 would cost the state $16.5 million. The bill is currently in the House Appropriations Committee.

If passed, state workers would get a one-percent raise in November, and another one-percent raise in November 2018.

Nicole Thuotte, a school finance specialist with the Office of Public Instruction, testified at the Legislature on the bill last week, and says the theme of her testimony was that state employees have been doing "more with less."

"Our families have done more with less for a long time and we're just trying to keep our heads above water like anybody else," she said. "And this modest increase would definitely be very important to a lot of the families, in both the organization that I work in and state government as a whole."

Thuotte says this raise and a promise that health-care costs won't go up would at least help state workers keep up with inflation. At the hearing last week, no one testified against the bill.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MT