- Associated Press - Friday, February 6, 2015

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - New Hampshire state employees will receive a 2 percent pay raise under a tentative contract agreed to by negotiators from the largest state employees union and Gov. Maggie Hassan’s office.

After roughly five months of negotiations, the State Employees’ Association’s bargaining team presented a 2-year contract Thursday evening. The agreement now goes to the union members and the union hopes to have the results of the vote by March 1, spokeswoman Beth D’Ovidio said. The State Employees’ Association, with about 9,000 members, represents the majority of state workers.

A 2 percent pay raise each year for all state employees will cost $12 million in the next state budget, said William Hinkle, the governor’s spokesman. Hassan will present her budget, including the pay raises, to lawmakers next Thursday. Her office is still in negotiations with three other unions.

State employees received a pay raise in the 2013 contract but, before then, hadn’t had a raise in five years.

“Working together, the respective bargaining teams arrived at a fair contract that supports state workers for their many daily contributions to the citizens and visitors of the state,” union president Rich Gulla said in a statement.

The contract makes no changes in employee health care. Changes to health care in the 2013 contract will lower expected health care spending by $10 million in the upcoming budget, Hinkle said.

The tentative agreement also includes a small increase in dental contributions, footwear reimbursement for up to $200 for certain positions and a change to lay-off procedures. If the government shuts down, employees would be furloughed rather than laid off, under the new contract language.

In a statement, Hassan praised state employees for doing more with less as many positions across state government remain vacant.

“This agreement is another important step toward maintaining fiscal responsibility while supporting our hard-working state employees,” she said.

Republican Sen. Jeanie Forrester criticized the likely pay increase.

“Governor Hassan is now asking New Hampshire taxpayers to foot the bill for two more pay raises. How does she plan to pay for it?” Forrester said in a statement.

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