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Republicans want pay freeze

ST. PAUL - Minnesota Senate Republicans want to freeze all state and local government workers' pay.

The proposal goes a step beyond Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who last week said he favored a freeze, but has not offered a bill to do that.

Assistant Senate Minority Leader Geoff Michel, R-Edina, on Wednesday said his plan would freeze salaries for two years. The state's next two-year budget faces at least a $5 billion deficit and Michel said his plan should save $1 billion.

"It seems that every few days, another Minnesota company is announcing layoffs due to the struggling economy," Michel said. "Now is the time for state government to live within its means."

Michel said he means no disrespect to state workers. "This is not about employee bashing."

But the leader of the state's largest union came out fighting.

The bill would "take away their right to bargain," said Eliot Seide, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 5. State workers have had a legal right to bargain in a union since 1973.

Seide said that if policymakers want to freeze pay, they should bring that up during union negotiations. He also said that the state should guarantee there would be no layoffs to accompany any freeze proposal.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.