House Appropriations Chairman Duane Ankney, R-Colstrip, said Thursday he hopes the committee can send a pay raise bill for state employees to the House floor in no later than two weeks.
“I think these employees deserve our time to deliberate to find something that’s fair and equitable for everyone,” Ankney said in an interview. “I feel good that we’re trying to do something.”
Once the committee approves the bill, it would be debated by the full House. If approved, it would go to the Senate for further action.
“We’re going to come up with a pay plan and then come up with the money to pay for it,” Ankney said. “I think they deserve it.”
The retired coal miner added, “I worked for wages. I know how important this is.”
His comments came a day after the committee heard 25 people — many of them state employees — testify in favor of House Bill 13. It would increase the base pay of employees by 5 percent in each of the next two years. No one spoke against it.
Many state employees haven’t had an increase in their base pay for at least four years.
Unions representing state employees agreed not to seek a pay raise in 2009 when state revenues were dropped suddenly during the recession. Those making $45,000 or less received a one-time $450 payment.
In 2011, the Legislature turned down a pay deal reached between then-Gov. Brian Schweitzer and public employee employees that called for a 1 percent pay hike one year and a 3 percent the next year.
Schweitzer and the unions reached another agreement last summer to provide the twin 5 percent increases that are included in HB13.
About half the executive branch employees received raises under the separate broadband pay plan in the fiscal year that ended in mid-2012.
Ankney said his first priority is to get raises for those state employees who didn’t get a raise under the broadband pay plan the past year.
The chairman said he also wants to try “to get those in the lower bands to a more equitable level.”
After the hearing Wednesday afternoon, Ankney said he went outside the room to thank state employees taking time off to testify.