The state pay plan is one of the most important issues facing working Montanans, but very few people understand it, including plenty of Montana Legislators. Last week House Bill 13 (the state pay plan) was tabled by Representative Ballance and the Appropriations Committee despite the fact that the committee heard overwhelming support for the bill.
The state pay plan accomplishes two very important things. First, the legislation gives state employees a modest fifty cents an hour pay raise. Second, the legislation matches insurance increases. The second part is a bit more complicated, but, in many ways, it’s the most important part of the state pay plan.
State employees are looking down the barrel at a 10% and 8% increase to their health insurance costs. That means that a single employee will see over $2,000 in lost wages. The numbers get worse for people with families.
Most state employees aren’t paid very much. In fact, some employees are already on food stamps. So imagine what a loss of $2,000 for someone making $12/hr looks like.
The legislature’s failure to pass the state pay plan amounts to a pay cut for state employees.
It’s also bad economic policy. Montana Chambers of Commerce support the state pay plan for good reason: it’s good for Montana’s economy.
State employees spend money at Montana businesses. The failure to pass the state pay plan means Cascade County’s economy will take a hit of $1.5 million; Deer Lodge will also take a $1.5 million hit; Flathead and Silver Bow will take $1.7 million hits; Missoula will lose out on $1.2 million; and Yellowstone will see over $2 million less spent in their local economy. Every county in Montana will see less money and their local economies will feel the pinch.
It’s painfully ironic that legislators are unwilling to even debate the state pay plan considering the fact that it was the Montana Legislature that demanded state employees negotiate with Governor Bullock and come up with a deal. This is deal they asked for and now they’re backing out, gutting paychecks, and hurting Montana’s local economies.