Minn. Bills To Curtail Public Worker Pay Get Look

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Taking away Minnesota teachers’ right to strike was approved Monday by a legislative committee just hours after another Republican-backed plan was introduced that would require public workers to pay more toward their retirement pensions.

Supporters said the plans are part of needed government reforms as lawmakers try to close a $5 billion state budget shortfall. Democrats, including Gov. Mark Dayton, criticized the plans and compared them to controversial legislation in Wisconsin that stripped most public employees of collective bargaining rights.

On an 8-5 party-line vote, the Senate State Government and Innovation Committee approved a GOP-backed plan that would allow teachers and public school administrators to negotiate contracts only during summer breaks. Supporters said it would financially pay off in the long-run by allowing school districts to avoid financial penalties levied by the state when contracts aren’t settled by a January deadline.

A bill introduced a few hours earlier would make state, city, county and school district employees pay more into their retirement pensions by cutting the government’s contribution by 3 percent across the board. Backers said it would save the state $50 million in the next two years.

“We are facing financial realities and realities that have to be addressed,” said Sen. Dave Thompson, R-Burnsville, who’s involved in several GOP bills aimed at the public workforce.

Under the teacher contract bill, negociations would be put on hold until the following summer if a summer break ends without a deal. If talks drag on beyond then without resolution, the two sides would enter into binding arbitration.

Supporters said labor unrest is distracting to students. Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-Brainerd, noted a 2005 strike in his district where teachers in Crosby-Ironton were off the job for two months during the school year.

“It was dramatic and it certainly was not about the children,” Gazelka said. “They were like a pawn in the middle of this chess match and they suffered greatly. Arbitration would have been far, far better.”

Democrats noted there have only been three full-blown teacher strikes in Minnesota since 1995. They said teachers are professionals who can keep labor disputes out of the classroom.

“I think what’s really being done here is trying to cut the legs out from under collective bargaining,” said Sen. Barb Goodwin, DFL-Columbia Heights.

Jim Smola, a teacher and union leader from Dakota County, said the bill would be worse for classrooms than the possibility of a rare teachers’ strike.

“I believe this bill would serve to undermine morale by artificially dragging out and stalling the negotiations process,” he said.

Republicans have presented several proposals to trim public workers’ pay and benefits to bring them in line with private sector employees. The proposed pension contribution cut would apply to all state and local workers except public safety employees including firefighters and police.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Gretchen Hoffman of Vergas, said as a private business owner she’s had to take similar steps with her own employees.

“All we’re asking is to have the employees contribute to their own retirement,” Hoffman said.

Dayton has avoided issuing direct veto threats against specific bills. But at a press conference Monday, he said the GOP pension proposal “would go far beyond what Wisconsin is proposing.” And he reaffirmed his support for collective bargaining rights for government employees.

“Those agreements are contracts, legal obligations of both parties and they need to be honored,” Dayton said. “The right to negotiate changes to those is something that both parties have and should not be taken away unilaterally by some kind of outside authority.”

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • wick

    The Dominoes are starting to fall, any employees that can take an early retirement better look into it or wish you had.

    • KP

      Really Govenor and Senators, perhaps you need to check into your own pay & benefits before you go after us that make less than 50 thousand a year. I believe that falls into the poor range!

      • Todd Gabrielson

        Republicans have sold out to the wealthy of this state. They are some of the most pathetic bunch of trash I have ever seen. Many of them attend church and hear the sermons and act Christian, but once they leave the church they turn to their most conveted god which is there money. You guys should be ashame of yoruselves for treating the middle class this way.

    • jimmy

      This is just a 3% tax on the middle class

  • Charles William Clifford

    Need a law that requires all government workers to be over 40 so victims of private industry age discrimination would have a chance at being employed.

    • Blue Dog

      I agree fully as a victim. What so many people do not realize is without a union you have no protection. In a time of economic tightness, employers will get rid of those who cost more. That is not just wages but those who add to the cost of insurance.

  • a

    They need to do something the debt needs to be delt with!

    • Ralphy

      to friggen funny – think they’ll include their own sleazy rears in this? lol
      never ever happen ……

  • T-Bone

    Ya see they need to get pensions fully funded so they can rob them. Tax brakes for the rich will wait for no man..

  • clancy

    The percentage of my income that goes into pera has gone up by .25% and .50% to pay off mismanagement by the state. While the amount has gone up, my benefits have stayed static. The extra money going in does not help me, but it will keep the plan solvent as long as the idiots in St.Paul keep their hands off it. Side note: the money that the county puts in does not reach my account until I retire.

  • DAR

    Hope Minnesota can pass the same type of laws that Wisconsin did. Have to stop the spending. State and Federal workers have been living fat off the hog long enough, and need to be at equal level of non union workers. The economy has been bad and will be for a while, so we all have to learn to live with less.

    • th

      If it weren’t for unions non union workers wouldn’t be making what they are today. I can’t understand how someone who isn’t rich can back Republicans. They aren’t for the middle class.

      • yep

        Yep, I agree. In Wisconsin just watch the private companies hold off on raises and cut pay now that they don’t have to compete with the union negotiations.

      • anita mann

        Ah, somebody who also sees the round about effects of unions. Who decided it was okay to hurt the public worker? They pay taxes, they contribute to their own healthcare premiums and do a service for their community. If unions hadn’t fought for the 40 hr work week, none of us would have it.

    • LAB

      Fat off the hog? I was a teacher for 23 years. My pension is $980 a month. My husband was a bus driver for 35 years and his pension is $281. I don’t consider that living fat off the hog!

      • Who me?

        So you want the tax payers to give you more?

    • TypesFromHome

      The Wisconsin Governor’s house of cards is starting to fall with the new report today that Wisconsin is one of only 5 states with their pension funds being fully funded, their bonds are selling VERY well, they’ve maintained their AA bond rating, and earlier they gave the wealthy a tax cut. None of those things are indicative of a broke state! He’s about to be found out! I wonder how he’ll talk himself out of this one. He’s manufactured this “we’re broke”, according to the treasurer. If the Minnesota Republicans fall in line with their fellow partiers to the East, they’ll be eating crow, too. Too funny!

    • ConfusedbyGovt

      Major parts of the state legislation that were passed in Wisconsin are already in place here in MN – teachers already pay a portion of their healthcare costs, and they already contribute a portion of their retirement. And as for your statement about “..The economy has been bad and will be for a while…”, most corporations here in the Twin Cities have reinstated their regular incentive plans, giving both pay increases AND bonuses to their employees, while realizing profits again. They’ve learned to live with less…less employees to do the same work as more employees a year or two ago. Let those corporations do their part and give up some of their tax breaks, or have their executives give up some of their tax breaks so as to actually pay the same percentage taxes the middle class pays. The discrepancy between upper and middle class is getting larger and larger – in a society such as ours, middle-class teachers and state workers should not have to bear the brunt of the budget issues of an entire state.

      • tiredofbeingkicked around

        While public school teachers in this state have enjoyed generous wage increases going back to the last decade our state public employees haven’t been able to get cost of living increases. I have a master’s degree with two other professional licenses and yet I feel attacked by any legislator who feels a need to get some ink time by crafting a bill that diminishes my wage. These same legislators who blame public employees for feeding from the public trough are themselves feeding from the same trough. The hypocrisy of these jerks are reprehensible.

    • Ralph

      The statistics are that government workers are paid less than an equivalent job in the community. The government can bargain in good faith giving the workers options of no raise or less jobs. It is interesting that all these people post about wanting less restrictions yet want to place more.

    • dphilips

      It really geting old hearing you rubes whining about cutting spending
      Heres an idea– Lets cut your salary and healthcare

      • state worker

        Guess what, that’s there plan and then the state workers will leave in droves. If the Republicans have there way with all of the cuts to the state workers they plan, it will cut my income by 43%. I make less than $60000 a year in the public sector and could increase that by a third in the private sector. In my field, there are jobs in the private sector and I will leave. If even 1/2 of the workers do this, Minnesota will cease to run. Unions aren’t necessarily the problem and maybe we should cut yours income by 43% and see how you like it.

    • kp

      Dar, if it is so great why don’t you get a state job. Work nights & weekends, work all the holidays, pick up some dead animals, put up with all the idoits that won’t let you plow the roads for “you” because we are causing you some inconvenience.
      Shut up you moron.

  • steve

    The gig is up for state employees. For so long they were looked at as this group of people going a great service for so little pay. The fact is it is a great gig you cannot get fired from. It is one of the biggest scams ever created after the teachers union!

    • stateworkersprovidevaluableservice

      I bet you are an out of work construction guy who drinks evenings and weekends and gets fired from jobs because you are unable to keep you mouth shut. I would guess you never finished school because of your short temper and problems being focused.

    • TypesFromHome

      Scam? Since when is filling out an application for a job, having an interview, filling out pre-employment papers, going to work every day as required and doing the work assigned and in your job description a “scam”? If THAT is a scam, I guess you’re just a scammer, too, assuming you have a job.

    • Thomas

      Grow up Stevie…and turn off Fox Spews…you are being brainwashed…

      • ConfusedbyGovt

        Thomas, you just literally made me laugh out loud. I love Fox News, but purely for entertainment purposes…

    • Wesly

      Known of plenty government workers that got fired. You say they get paid little and call it a great gig.

      • anita mann

        I must have known their coworkers. Worked very hard because their coworkers didn’t and they wanted to be certain the public was safe.

  • Mike

    I saw in Sunday Star & Trib where Minnesota pensioners in PERA and TRA are getting 10 to 16 thousand dollars a month from their pensions. Give us a break!

    • TG

      Lets not put everyone who gets a state pension under the same category as some Much overpaid beurocrate who “oversees” everyone else. I can promise you this person or people who get that much in a pension are NOT the norm. And probably only the “top 5%” But heaven forbid we go after just the top 5% right?

    • Stien


      Read the article again! What % of those folks were hauling in the huge pensions? The average is $1,300 a month! Those people are loaded!

      • Wesly

        Selective retention on his part.

    • Earl

      Rule of 90 on for the PERA fund was that you get paid 80% of your last wage at retirement. It does not go up appreciably with more time served. Some facts from the article (don’t know if that was legal)

      “The teachers’ retirement [plan] did a fabulous job of investing,” Anderson said. She added that she does not get Social Security or Medicare and pays nearly $600 a month for health care coverage.
      Of the 100 top monthly pension earners in the PERA system, no one gets less than $9,332 a month, or $111,984 a year.

      PERA’s plan covers more than 80,000 retirees and beneficiaries, with an average monthly pension payout of $1,300. Well over half of PERA’s retirees get less than $1,000 monthly. Vanek pointed out that, like Anderson, most of the top recipients are not covered by Social Security.

      So when you people blast the pensioners, remember that the people at the top are the judges, administrators and elected officials.

      • Earl

        I do not disagree that the top are getting a way to generous pension, one of the judges agrees.

    • dphilips

      You misunderstand Mike, Those people contributed tp those pension many years ago The funds were tied to the stock market during the boom

    • kp

      Did you really read the article? Call those 5-6 people and complain to them.

    • paul

      mike did you read the whole story or just the line about a select few most receive less than 1000.00 a month my mother for one put in 19 years with the state her pension is almost 800.00 dollars a month so please read the whole story and get it straight .

  • Arnie

    And when the budget is balanced…what then…they run it right back into the red…thats what…Thank God for Governor Dayton…

  • ConfusedbyGovt

    I still don’t understand why the state politicians aren’t looking at one of the most logical ways to help ease the burden for school districts, which is a large chunk of public employees, while also helping out the school district employees – allow the school districts of the state to consolidate into one self-insured healthcare plan.

    Healthcare is the area that has increased the most significantly for all employees, both in the public and private sectors. There is such a huge discrepancy between what each school district is contributing and having to pay for their employees’ healthcare costs due to each district having their own plan. By allowing the districts to combine, you would be kiling two birds with one stone – lowering the amounts to be paid by the districts toward each employee’s healthcare while also lowering overall premiums for employees. Freezing salaries is like squeezing water from a rock – there’s nothing there to take away as most districts have little or no pay increases in their current contracts.

    Also, why are we treating teachers like accountants or assembly line workers, trying to make them more like the private sector? They are not making widgets – they are dealing every day with living, breathing human beings. Why are we targeting this group of workers who are almost 100% middle class or lower? Many private sector companies are able to hand our pay increases AND bounses – these companies spent one or two years asking their employees to go without pay increases or bonuses, but then have reinstated all incentive plans, and even given back extra to make up for the shortalls their employees had to take in ’09 and ’10. The school districts were limiting pay increases as far back as five years ago, closing schools if needed, increasing class size and cutting programs to meet their fiscal budgets. The school district I am most aware of has been handling their own finances with tough cuts for several years. Why should they be penalized even more because the state government gave too many corporate tax breaks and didn’t realize as much revenue as they expected? And to remove the collective bargaining will allow the districts to cut experienced teachers and bring in college grads for less money. If the schools just start rotating young, inexperienced teachers and then throw them to the curb after they finally gain enough experience, I guarantee the state of Minnesota WILL see test scores go down significantly.

    I just don’t understand this all-out assault on the middle class. If we need to make up for a shortfall, increase taxes on EVERYONE – corporations, middle-class, upper-class, small businesses. I am so confused by this Republican stance to try to manage school districts – I thought they generally stood for less government, not more…

    • Lets support good policy

      Well said

  • Life in the public trough is wonderful

    Hmmmm, if Dayton’s against it, then it must be wise to be for it.

    Can Walker be governor in MN too?

    • ConfusedbyGovt

      Public trough, I encourage you to pick up and move to WI, which is where I grew up. I just hope you can afford a private school education for your children or that they are almost done with school, because the performance of WI schools is about to go downhill significantly.

      And nice comment about being ‘for’ something just because Dayton is against it. It is nice to see informed, educated taxpayers using their brain to have an opinion on issues. This is what scares me about U.S. politics, not the blind leading the blind, but the blind FOLLOWING the blind…

    • dphilips

      I hope not! Go Gov Dayton!

  • Dayton for dog catcher

    ConfusedbyGovt says teachers are “almost 100% middle class or lower” so they shouldn’t be targeted? Okay, if not the low class which class should we target? Or should it be based on race, religion, something else?

    No wonder he’s confused. I’d be confused if he wasn’t confused.

    • ConfusedbyGovt

      Dog catcher, if you read my last paragraph, note that I believe ALL categories of taxpayers, individual and business, should share in the burden of fixing our budget issues. I’m not sure where you read into my statements to think I meant it shoudl be based on some stereotypical basis. But then you assumed I am a ‘he’, so maybe it wasn’t my comments at all, but your own view point…

  • LAB

    Who me, I was giving people like you a taste of what some greater MN pensions look like–not the very few that got the big increases a number of years ago.Too bad you have to be so skewed in your thinking.

  • Joe

    Fat my ass , I cant even go out and have dinner any more . So put that where the sun dont shine.

  • Joe


  • Solly

    Immediately after the crash of 2008, caused by mainly by greed and mismanagement in the financial industry, these same people shortly turned everybody’s attention to programs that benefit average people and took the pressure off of themselves. Nobody today is talking about obscene bonuses being paid or the fact that CEO’s who earned 42 times as much as the average worker in 1980 now earn 531 times as much. Instead, mainstream people are complaining about their neighbors’ pay, pensions, etc., which diverts criticism from the main problem, waste in corporate pay and privileges. It’s easier to complain about people you see every day than people you don’t know because they live in mansions in gated communities.
    We now hear that everybody has to feel the pain, but how are the rich feeling the pain? The rich in Minnesota who leave the state for 6 months and a day are the leaches of society, since they pay no taxes and use our services. These people pay a much lower percentage in total taxes than in previous years, and a lower percentage than average people.
    Republicans constantly talk about lower taxes and job creation, but manufacturing jobs are gone forever to areas with cheap labor. Any tax breaks for business will simply give them more profits, while resulting in very few new jobs here. An example is that jobs lost had an average salary of $25 an hour and new jobs created an average salary of $10 per hour.
    The propaganda machine of the rich (including the media that is owned and controlled by the rich) pits average people against each other, and people are buying into it. Rather than trying to improve everybody’s lot in the middle class, people are criticizing their neighbors rather than the people who deserve the criticism, the rich.

  • Bob

    So you start out at just above min wage. Your neg team goes in and maybe gets you a 1.5 wage increase for a part time 20 hour a week job cause your employer will not hire full time. you have no bennis . This is living fat of the hog?? Get real!!! Tax the rich they have no pain!!!!!!!!!

  • Anita Newhouse

    Bottom line: education is not a commodity and you can’t run schools like businesses. It’s been tried continually for the last 2 decades. Students are not getting smarter and the community is not getting a better return on it’s investment. Families are not schools’ customers as much as the competition to the bottom of cost cutting cannot be won. Education costs became part of the general budget when we embraced a partnership model for education: schools partnering with families, teachers, businesses, and government. Schools were making progress on retention, graduation rates and post-secondary placements ……..And then business got greedy and swallowed education whole. For the last 10 years, education has been limited to AYP with marginal gains and wholesale failure.

  • Holy Smokes

    Geez, While all of us hard working people are ripping into all of the working classes, all of the so called non-working, lower class, whatever, are paying no taxes. If we want to equalize the tax system, it would be great to see even the people making minimum wage to pay at least something, instead of getting it all back at tax time…..while many of us pay more, and many demanding that the stiffs who work their butts off and do well in life PAY MORE because they are wealthy. Where the heck is fairness in taxation! We all use the tax supported system equally. I am a middle class worker wanting to retire some day on what I put into my 401K by ME.

  • support staff

    I am a support person who works in the schools. I make 17.49 per hour. Please tell me how that is living the high life. I have only 178.00 left after all of the things that I have to pay. like heating the condo in the winter, keeping the lights on and filling my car up with gas.

    Now you need to ask how much are people in the non government sector fairing. well there is not a teacher or a support person who is making over a million dollars per year, and most of our legislators are coming from the upper class not the low class or the middle class, in fact the average income for a state legislator is over a million dollars.

    I do not mind paying my fair share in helping out the goverment get out of the mess that it is in, but do not take away the right strike, the right to have a pention, the right live above the poverty line.

  • DL

    Don’t know about you but either the step increases or cost of living increases have been frozen most of the last 10 years I have worked as a public employee. So either we are stagnant or getting a whopping 1-2% raise. That is how it works. I do admit they can get rid of some of the top people way to many managers who do little other than go to meetings and have no clue how to do the jobs they supervise. This goes beyond the teachers as the school board can can just vote another levy in.

  • lee

    I can what for 2012 hope all you SOB’s get voted out and the rest off you GOP’s can go to hell.

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