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Montana State Capitol building, Helena, Montana

Pay Increase Update from MEA-MFT in Helena

In a legislative session not scant on good news, it could be worse than what went down earlier today. Eric Feaver, who heads up our state side parent union with which we are affiliated, the MEA-MFT, sent this out earlier today. If you have questions about what it means, feel free to contact me directly.

Paul Haber, UFA President.

Early this a.m., SB 294 Senate and House Conferees met in a free conference committee to amend into SB 294 what’s left of the state (and university) employee pay plan. Senate Conferees: Ed Buttrey, Tom Facey, and Steve Fitzpatrick (chair). House Conferees: Nancy Ballance, Moffie Funk, and Brad Tschida.*

Here are the key amendments they adopted:

  • State employees will receive 1% base pay increases each year of the coming biennium. Unfortunately these pay increases will not occur until February 15, 2018 and February 15, 2019. We will be well into the 2019 legislative session when the second 1% pay increase goes into effect.
  • But, fortunately, the delay in state employee pay increases funds a significant increase in the state’s share of MUS faculty and staff pay going forward. In effect, state and university employee pay so far as what the legislature appropriates comes right of the same pot.
  • In addition, the free conference committee transferred and appropriated $2m in one-time-only dollars from the so-called 911 Fund to provide a “Montana university system voluntary retirement incentive program.” The title of the program speaks for itself. The MUS will spend the money incentivizing retirements until the money is gone.

* Buttrey, Facey, Fitzpatrick, Balance, and Funk all voted YES on the above amendments. Tschida cast the only NO vote.

The committee adopted a couple of other amendments appropriating small sums of money to pay for bills the legislature has passed that are unrelated to state and university pay. In so doing, it appears there will be NO session ending HB 2 conference committee!
I am not sure when the House and Senate will each adopt the SB 294 free conference committee report. But I have no doubt it will be adopted. It could even be done today but more likely next week when legislators return from the Easter break.

Looking back and then on down the road, we must design a better system of negotiating state funding of state and university employee pay. Good faith pre-budget negotiations with the executive have failed to produce what either party intended when we both signed off and presented our conclusion in HB 13. HB 13 is a chronic loser that the legislature has NOT adopted since 2009. HB 13 failed in 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2017.

This chronic failure provoked the MEA-MFT representative assembly meeting here in Helena a couple of weeks ago to adopt the following new business item, NBI #3 – 17 RA: MEA-MFT president Eric Feaver shall work with MPEA executive director Quinton Nyman to appoint a joint MPEA/MEA-MFT committee of no more than 6 members to review and suggest alternatives to pre-budget negotiations and HB 13 as the method for advancing a state [and university] employee raise.

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