CONCORD — A public policy expert believes the tentative pay raise for state employees will survive the final rounds of budget wrangling and be part of New Hampshire’s spending plan for the next two years.
Charles Arlinghaus, president of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, said the collective bargaining agreements for a 6 percent increase over two years added a late challenge to the list budget writers already faced with deadlines looming Thursday, but he felt lawmakers would somehow find the money and avoid having to pull a deal reached through negotiations with four unions representing state employees.
“The catch is they have to pay for it,” said Arlinghaus, who writes a weekly column on public policy for the Union Leader.
Leaders in the Democrat-controlled House and Republican-led Senate were snagged this week on how much revenue the state can realistically expect to come in during the two-year budget period.
“Any time you want to spend more, you have to get people to say yes. Positive action is always a little bit harder than doing less,” Arlinghaus said. “I’m sure the House understands that the pay raise has to be paid for and the only realistic way to do that is to cut something else.”
Arlinghaus said the raise would have some affect on pensions and the New Hampshire Retirement System, but only slightly because the raise itself is relatively modest at 6 percent.
The cost of the contract is estimated at $35 million over the two-year budget period. Of that, $17 million would come from general funds.
The preliminary agreement, which still needed approval from the unions’ membership, calls for employees to take on deductibles for health care, starting at $500 for individual in 2014 and $750 the following year. The deductible for families would be $750 the first year and $1,000 in 2015.