Senate OKs employee pay package

2013-04-22T17:13:00Z Senate OKs employee pay packageBy NICK SMITH | Bismarck Tribune Bismarck Tribune

Members of the North Dakota Senate approved a state employee salary package and forwarded it to a conference committee on Monday.

Senators approved the salary package by voice vote. The package was introduced as a floor amendment. It’s part of House Bill 1015, the budget for the Office of Management and Budget.

Sen. Ray Holmberg, R-Grand Forks, said the package isn’t perfect but is the best lawmakers from both chambers could agree to.

“At the end of the day we weren’t cheering,” Holmberg said. “Perfection is the purview of God. Our job was to do the best we could.”

Under the plan, state employees would receive a 4 percent salary increase in the first year of the 2013-15 biennium and a 3 percent increase in year two. A 1 percent state-employee match also would go into their retirement with no employee-state contribution in the second year.

The package also contains performance-based salary increases. Employees would be eligible for a 3 percent to 5 percent increase in the first year and a 2 percent to 4 percent increase in year two.

The full HB1015 passed 47-0 and was sent, with the employee salary amendment, to conference committee.

Stuart Savelkoul, executive director of the North Dakota Public Employees Association, called the deal an acceptable compromise for state employees.

Savelkoul called the pay package “a missed opportunity” to bring state employee salaries more in line with market rates. He pointed to the state-employee retirement match as the primary place where the state came up short.

“That was pretty much the total crux of the difference,” Savelkoul said.

Fixing the state’s employee retirement system is a critical issue which would be better to solve sooner rather than later.

“Investing today would save the state a huge amount of money in the long run,” Savelkoul said.

Savelkoul said he doesn’t expect any major last-minute changes since lawmakers are trying to hurry up and complete the current legislative session. He said employees will need to accept what has been offered and they’ll need to come back and make their case again in two years.

“This is (actually) a better compensation package that we thought would come out of committee,” Savelkoul said.

Reach Nick Smith at 250-8255 or 223-8482 or at nick.smith@bismarcktribune.com.

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