ST. PAUL -- Hold the phone, park the car and forget about a raise.
That's the message the House sends to state workers with a $412 million finance bill that limits government-issued cell phones, reduces the vehicle fleet and freezes employee wages and health benefits for the next two years. It also would curb employees' ability to strike.
The House approved the bill 71-62 late Thursday night after more than 10 hours of debate, including an hours-long filibuster by DFLers who tried, unsuccessfully, to kill an amendment that would prohibit the state from ever agreeing to extend benefits to the partners of gay and lesbian employees in future union negotiations. They recited poems, told family stories and slowly read lists of hundreds of Minnesota companies that offer the benefits.
Rep. Bill Haas, whose committee drafted the overall bill, said it would change state government right down to the way it buys paper clips and other supplies.
"The way we ran government yesterday cannot be the way we run it today or tomorrow," said Haas, R-Champlin.
It's sure to be one of the most controversial budget bills as negotiations between the GOP House, DFL Senate and Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty commence. The employee pay and health care provisions will be the flashpoints.
The bill bans salary increases -- other than for promotions -- and it prohibits the state from kicking in more money than it does now for health premiums.
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