California lawmakers approve 4.5 percent state worker raises
Friday, July 5, 2013
SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Rebounding state revenue bolstered by temporary tax increases recently approved by voters are paying off for California's largest public employees' union.
The state Senate this week, following earlier approval in the Assembly, ratified a three-year agreement that gives the 95,000 members of Service Employees International Union Local 1000 4.5 percent pay raises by July 1, 2015. The agreement was negotiated between the union and Gov. Jerry Brown's administration.
The union supported Brown's successful drive last fall for a ballot initiative temporarily raising the statewide sales tax and income taxes on those making more than $250,000 a year. The tax increases are expected to generate about $6 billion more per year.
Democrats used their two-thirds supermajority in the Senate on Wednesday to approve AB1377 on a 27-8 vote, sending the bill containing the agreement to the Democratic governor for his signature.
They acted days after SEIU 1000 gave Brown's 2014 re-election campaign committee $54,400.
"We don't really have any comment on that specific contribution," union spokesman Jim Zamora said. "But it is worth noting that SEIU Local 1000 worked very hard in 2010 to elect Jerry Brown and to defeat (Republican) Meg Whitman. Nothing has changed in terms of our support for him."
A spokesman for the governor would not comment on the timing of the contribution, opting instead to address the contract itself.
"This is a good, solid agreement that's fair to taxpayers and employees, which is why it received strong support from both Democrats and Republicans," Evan Westrup said in an emailed statement when asked about any relationship between the contract and the contribution.
Only Democrats supported the measure in the Senate, but 10 Republicans voted it for it in the Assembly, where it passed 63-9 last month. That included Assembly Minority Leader Connie Conway, R-Tulare.
The specific timing of the raise depends on state revenue. The agreement says employees will get a 2 percent raise on July 1, 2014, followed by a 2.5 percent increase the following July 1 if tax revenue meets current projections. If revenue falls short, the entire 4.5 percent increase would go into effect in 2015.
Republicans in the Senate said approving the agreement based on temporary taxes is foolish and a disservice to voters. The quarter cent sales tax hike will expire in four years and the higher income taxes on the wealthy in seven.
They said voters were misled by the governor and other supporters of the initiative, Proposition 30, when they said the money would be dedicated to public schools.
"The governor asked Californians this past year to approve a tax increase for education, which we gave him. Today, we are about to give a $1 billion pay raise to the state employees instead," Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Twain Harte, said during Wednesday's floor debate.
The $1 billion estimate assumes that other state employee unions receive similar raises patterned on the SEIU 1000 pact, Senate Minority Leader Bob Huff, R-Diamond Bar, said in a statement. He criticized the state giving raises to government workers while others are struggling.
It is the first pay raise for the employees in seven years, said Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, who carried the measure in the Senate. The SEIU contract will cost the state's general fund $130 million a year once the full increase kicks in.
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