DES MOINES, Iowa
The state of Iowa and leaders of its largest union announced Friday that they reached a tentative agreement on a two-year contract that gives workers a 2 percent raise on July 1.
Republican leaders quickly criticized the deal with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, calling it irresponsible and estimating it would cost the state more than $100 million in the first year.
The contract still must be approved by the roughly 20,000-person union.
State spokesman Robert Bailey said the agreement calls for a 2 percent pay increase in July, followed by a 1 percent increase in January 2012, another 2 percent in July 2012, and a 1 percent increase in January 2013.
Democratic Gov. Chet Culver, who lost his re-election bid to Republican Terry Branstad, said state employees deserved the raise, in part because they agreed to furloughs and other moves last winter to deal with plunging tax revenues during the recession.
"They agreed to take unpaid furloughs and suspension of employer deferred compensation contributions in FY2010 so that the state could better adjust to economic conditions and lower revenues," Culver said in a statement. "These people are on the front lines of delivering vital services and information to the people of Iowa and deserve to be paid in accordance with their qualifications and efforts."
Bailey said the Department of Management was still figuring out how much the proposed contract would cost.
Branstad Chief of Staff Jeff Boeyink said the deal would cost $103.5 million in the first year and hundreds of millions in later years.
Boeyink said the state couldn't afford what he labeled a "backroom deal."
"At a time 113,000 Iowans are out of work and thousands more are seeing significant pay reductions, it is the wrong time to ask taxpayers to pick up the enormous cost of these pay raises," Boeyink said in a statement. "Iowans elected Terry Branstad on a promise to reduce the size of Iowa's budget and Governor Culver has taken the unprecedented step of effectively removing to voice of the taxpayers from this process.
Incoming House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, said Culver should have left the bargaining to Branstad.
"I'm awful disappointed that those negotiations are completed," Paulsen said. "That's adding $100 million to each budget going forward."
Charlie Wishman, a spokesman for AFSCME's Council 61, dismissed criticism, saying the state's collective bargaining law required it to submit a proposal in November. He described the raises as "very modest and reasonable."
Wishman said union leaders will begin holding meetings in December to explain the proposal to members, who likely will vote later in the month.
Boeyink said Branstad would study whether he had any options about agreeing to the contract.
Paulsen said lawmakers have little choice but to fund the contract because union ratification of the agreement would give it a binding contract with the state.
"What's done is done and we'll have to move forward," said Paulsen.