Montana Legislature Wraps Up, Final Discussion Includes State Budget and State Employee Pay Raises
One of the last and perhaps most important issues at the Montana legislature will be to wrap up the state budget. One of the most contentious issues behind the budget is whether or not to give public employees a raise. Montana Speaker of the House, Republican Austin Knudsen, said his party is up for giving some employees a pay raise.
"We don't mind giving state employees a pay raise, especially in the lower pay band. Those are the people that have kind of been overlooked," Knudsen said. "We aren't interested in helping the executives and the branches of government that are making over six figures. We're interested in the people who are making $30,000 or $40,000. They aren't asking much. They're only asking for 50 cents and I think we can get there as long as we've got some health care reforms."
Knudsen said the health care costs for public employees are spiraling out of control.
"You know what we're looking at is the fact that state employees health insurance, the costs are spiraling out of control," Knudsen said. "Every year there's about an eight to 10 percent price increase in employee health care benefits and that's a part of their compensation package as well."
Knudsen said that Governor Bullock’s office has also shown concern about the cost of public employee health care and has shown a willingness to institute some restraints.