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Committee approves Wisconsin state, UW employee pay raises

December 18, 2019 GMT

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A bipartisan committee of legislative leaders on Wednesday unanimously approved a 2% pay raise in each of the next two years for University of Wisconsin and state employees.

The panel also rejected Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ proposal to set the state minimum wage at $15 on a unanimous vote. It didn’t vote on a contract for the Wisconsin State Patrol that would extend a retroactive 2% pay raise for existing employees and increase starting salaries by 23%, from about $44,000 to about $54,000.

Democrats supported the $15 minimum wage and the trooper contract, but didn’t have the votes to overcome Republican opposition in the Joint Committee on Employment Relations.

Republican Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, a member of the committee, said he would likely support a starting pay raise for troopers in the high single digits, but not above 20%.

“There’s just concerns of an increase of over 20% in one cycle is a little richer than the state of Wisconsin can afford,” Vos said to explain his opposition.

Vos said he hoped the Evers administration and troopers could negotiate a deal to that effect.

A patrol contract could be voted on at a later date, but the committee must approve any deal before it would take effect.

Chad Thompson, a master trooper in the patrol based in Wood County, who is also president of the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Association, testified that the patrol was having a hard time recruiting and retaining troopers because of the pay.

“We have a lot of issues just covering basic shifts,” Thompson said.

Democrats criticized the committee for not voting to approve the trooper contract and said they hoped Republicans would take up a deal early next year. There are about 370 troopers in Wisconsin.

“The starting pay is not competitive with just about anywhere,” Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz said.

The troopers deal was to cover 2017-2019. They did not have an agreement between 2015 and 2017.

The 2% general salary increases for state and university employees was approved in the state budget this year, but the committee had to sign off before the changes could take effect. The first 2% raise will be in January, with another 2% in 2021.

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