Joint panel recommends higher pay raise

With no debate, the House-Senate Conference Committee on the budget agreed to give a 2-percent raise to all state employees who earn up to $70,000 a year, in the state budget for the business year that begins July 1.

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But other issues — especially funding for Veterans’ Homes in the state — are holding up final conference committee agreements on the proposed budget, which the Constitution requires lawmakers to pass by 6 p.m. Friday.

“(State employees) have not had a pay raise in five years and have had higher costs to health care — (a raise) is the right thing to do,” Senate Appropriations Chairman Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia, told reporters Monday. “Obviously, we’re still below, really, where the governor was on income, because the governor (in January) had it for everyone.”

Last month, the House had passed the 2-percent pay raise for all state employees earning up to $70,000 a year — a proposal the state’s Office of Administration said would cover 54,563 employees, or almost 97 percent of the state government’s workforce.

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