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It’s no time for raising state pay


Are we trying to cut the state budget or not? Gov. Chet Culver’s decision to go ahead and approve $100 million in pay increases to state employees might mollify union members and keep them in the Democratic Party fold, but it’s a poke in the eye for taxpayers.

There has been talk about the awkward nature of a lame-duck Congress; this move reminds us that it’s also not business as usual when a governor has two months left and no consequences to face. In most years, pay negotiations would go on for some time and would reflect the realities of a seriously strained budget.

Instead, Culver just said yes to various raises. It was as if he decided to do as he pleased and ignore the larger issue.

Culver justified his decision with mentions of the unpaid leave days some state employees took, and said the workers “deserve to be paid in accordance with their qualifications and efforts,” according to The Des Moines Register.

Iowa is full of people who are doing outstanding work and not receiving raises – or not receiving a paycheck at all, because they’re unemployed. This is a poor moment in history to expect taxpayers to feel magnanimous.

Especially when state employees already get a generous bundle of benefits, including free health insurance.

Gov.-elect Terry Branstad called for a change in that setup, saying that state employees should pay premiums for health coverage. We supported Culver’s bid for re-election, mainly because we’re generally unimpressed with Branstad’s approach to the job. This, however, calls Culver’s judgment into question one more time and makes Branstad look better in the process.

House Republican leader Kraig Paulsen, who will serve as speaker in the 2011 session of the Iowa Legislature, calculated that some state employees will see their wages rise 15 percent during the next two years.

If so, Culver’s action isn’t just too casual. It’s irresponsible.

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