A Republican-led legislative panel has rejected new contracts for more than 27,000 state employees.
The Subcommittee on Employee Relations voted six to four this morning to reject the two-year contracts for the two largest state employee unions.
DFL State Rep. Leon Lillie of North Saint Paul questioned the Republican leaders' political motives for denying state employees a 2-percent pay increase.
"I just question some of the timing, you know, right before the election, here we are, we're going to take down our employees," Lillie said. "In my personal life, I work for one of the biggest employers in Minnesota and many of us are getting raises and I don't know how you can look these folks in the face and say that 2 percent is ridiculous."
State Sen. Mike Parry of Waseca, the Republican chair of the subcommittee, said the contracts didn't contain the reforms Republicans were seeking, such as employee contributions to their health care premiums, raises tied to performance, and freezing union dues.
"The time is now for Minnesotans to realize the need for reform in our compensation of state employees," Parry said. "The state deserves more than the same old same old rubber stamp that they have seen over the years."
Democrats on the committee called the contracts "modest" and noted that employees lost three weeks' worth of wages in the government shutdown last summer.
The contracts could still be approved by the full Legislature in January.