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Legislative News and Views - Rep. Steve Drazkowski (R)

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Friday, March 27, 2009
Facing a $6 billion budget deficit, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out Minnesota is going to need to cut spending in a lot of areas in order to balance the budget. In my opinion, drastic times call for drastic measures, and if some perks that folks are used to need to fall by the wayside in order for the state to balance its books, then that’s what we need to do. Yet many other lawmakers don’t see it this way. For Example A, I direct you to the recent subcommittee meeting on employee relations. As a member of this commission, I was able to take part in a lively discussion regarding the contract negotiated between MnSCU and the Inter Faculty Organization, a group that represents the state university faculty. The spin on this contract: The faculty, recognizing the state faces a mammoth deficit, would accept a 0% salary increase. On its face, this sounded reasonable. To me, because the state is 15% to 17% in the hole, that should have been the starting point for these negotiations. But I decided to learn more about this “0% increase.” By the time the meeting had ended, I walked out shaking my head. The Inter Faculty Organization contract may contain no salary increase, but there are plenty of other “financial provisions” that make this agreement quite attractive. They include: • Faculty at the top of their salary range and received a lump sum payment of $2,400 will receive that in each year of this new contract • Faculty reaching 10, 20, and 30 years of service continue to receive a two step increase in pay - or $4800 • Faculty promoted will receive a two step increase • Faculty giving one year’s notice retirement receive a two step increase in their final year of teaching. If at the top of their salary range, they receive a $4800 check. • Faculty recognized for outstanding teaching for three consecutive years are awarded a lump sum payment of $6,000 • Faculty can receive 30 credits of free college tuition each year, to be used by themselves, their spouse or child. • Faculty with six years experience can take a one year sabbatical, paid 100% in full for one semester, or 80% for the entire year. • Faculty with 15 years of service and are 55 years old will receive a full year’s salary upon retirement. In actuality, this contract represents a 1.3% increase. I was shocked by the lack of discipline and the entitlement mentality that is represented by this negotiated agreement. Here is a group that could offer no threat to strike, and yet government failed to negotiate an agreement that actually addresses the financial crisis this state is facing. Instead of whittling away a portion of our deficit, we actually added to it by over $2 million dollars. Sadly, I was the only member of the commission to vote against this proposal. It will soon be attached to an omnibus employee contract bill that will be debated and likely approved on the House floor. Decisions like these are the foundation of what will help us address this budget crisis. The Legislature must be disciplined to hold some of Minnesota’s many, smaller budget components in check. On this MnSCU faculty contract, the legislature appears to be working towards rightfully earning a failing grade.
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