Government

Iowa state employees being asked to give up raises

Iowa legislators voting on bills to cut $118 million by June 30

The Iowa State House chamber on Thur. Mar 11, 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
The Iowa State House chamber on Thur. Mar 11, 2016. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)
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DES MOINES — Hundreds of state public employee union members are being asked to forego a 1.25 percent pay increase they’ve been receiving since Jan. 1 without getting any assurance from the state it would prevent layoffs.

About 19,000 state employees represented by AFSCME will begin voting in early February whether to accept the state’s request to give up the raise agreed to in collective bargaining, according to Danny Homan, president of AFSCME Iowa Council 61.

For an AFSCME member in the midrange of the state pay scale, giving up the raise would amount to about 35 cents per hour or $61 a month, Homan estimated.

Members of the State Police Officers Council and Iowa United Professionals already have rejected the request made by Iowa Department of Administrative Services Director Janet Phipps. A decision on adjusting wages for non-contract employees will be made by the Governor’s Office and the Department of Management, she said.

If all three unions had agreed to the wage adjustment, it would have saved the state about $10 million, Phipps said, about half that in the general fund.

The asks come as lawmakers are in the midst of adopting measures to cut nearly $118 Million from the state budget in the next five months because of a projected shortage of revenue.

AFSCME members will begin voting Feb. 6 on whether to concede their raise, Homan said. Just as he did when Democratic Gov. Chet Culver asked employees to take mandatory unpaid days, Homan took the state request to bargaining unit chairs. They voted unanimously to put it to a full membership vote.

The difference between the previous Culver request, and also one from Democratic Gov. Tom Vilsack, is that GOP Gov. Terry Branstad’s administration is promising nothing in return, according to both Homan and Phipps.

“There is no quid pro quo,” Phipps said. “We’re asking them to be a part of a solution by contributing to an adjustment that has to be made.”

State agencies likely are including the possibility of layoffs as they make plans to deal with budget adjustments approved Thursday by the Senate and scheduled for a vote Monday in the House, Phipps said.

However, in a letter to AFSCME members, Homan said he was told foregoing the wage increase “could potentially result in fewer layoffs this fiscal year.”

It’s a no-win situation for AFSCME members, Homan said, adding that one member described it as a choice between being shot in the foot and being shot in the head. If they approve the wage adjustment, state employees will lose that income. If not, they face layoffs in order for the state to make up a projected shortfall between now and the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

Homan was adamant the budget shortfall is not his members’ fault. It’s the fault of Branstad and House Republicans who gave a fertilizer plant in Lee County $100 million in economic development benefits, created more corporate tax cuts and privatized Medicaid, he said.

“I don’t know why they’re blaming the guys who were plowing roads last night or the correctional officers at the Iowa Medical and Classification Center who keep dangerous people off the streets and the people at mental health institutes caring for our most vulnerable people,” Homan said.

“But instead of taking money out of the rainy day fund, they are going to balance this budget on the backs of public employees,” he said.

l Comments (319) 398-8375; James.Lynch@TheGazette.com

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