- Associated Press - Monday, June 22, 2015

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Gov. Scott Walker’s administration and the state troopers’ union have negotiated a new contract that calls for higher insurance premiums in exchange for a pair of raises paid through back wages.

The deal released Monday covers the 2013-15 biennium, which ends next week on June 30. The contract calls for a 3 percent raise for the year that ended in June 2014, paid through a lump sum for all hours worked during the preceding year. Troopers would get another 3 percent raise for the year that ends this June 30 with a lump sum payment for all hours worked during the preceding year. The final pay rate would stay in place going forward until another contract is reached.

The deal also would require troopers to pay more for their health insurance each month. The rates range from a few dozen more dollars per month for a single person to hundreds of dollars more for family coverage, depending on the plan.

The contract moves closer to what Republican legislative leaders wanted when they rejected a plan for a 17 percent average pay raise in March.

Troopers haven’t had a pay raise since June 2009, and officials with their union, the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Association, said the raise was needed to retain troopers leaving for higher pay at other law enforcement agencies. But the contract requires Assembly and Senate approval, and GOP leaders said their caucuses would never go for that pay bump.

The Joint Committee of Employee Relations is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the new proposal Tuesday afternoon. The committee likely will vote following the hearing on whether to recommend full legislative passage.

Aides for the committee’s leaders, Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, and Sen. Mary Lazich, R-New Berlin, didn’t immediately return messages seeking comment on the new deal. Myranda Tanck, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said he’s reviewing the agreement ahead of the committee meeting but declined further comment.

Fitzgerald’s father, Stephen Fitzgerald, serves as the head of the state patrol, a subdivision of the Department of Transportation.

The troopers association warned in March that a 3 percent raise wouldn’t be enough to keep troopers on the job. Glen Jones, head of the union’s negotiating team, said the association had to be realistic since legislators are struggling to find ways to fund DOT road projects in the 2015-17 state budget. Walker has proposed borrowing $1.3 billion for roads, but legislators have balked at that figure, creating an impasse that has delayed work on the budget for nearly a month.

“When the politicians are trying to figure out where to cut costs and what projects should be delayed further, you can only go so long saying cut everything else but push money our way,” Jones said. “We decided to close the books on (the past biennium) and start over (and) at least get something in members’ pockets today retroactively.”

State troopers were exempted from Walker’s 2011 law that effectively ended collective bargaining for most public workers over everything except pay raises to account for inflation. Most state workers got 1 percent raises in both 2013 and 2014.

The governor gave the 10 members of the state patrol division assigned to protect him a $4-an-hour raise in February. That move didn’t require legislative approval.

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