GOP to reject proposed Wisconsin state troopers pay raise

MADISON — Republicans plan to reject a contract that would give most Wisconsin state troopers a 2% pay increase because it would also increase starting salaries by more than 20%, a move advocates for the raises decried Tuesday as a slight to law enforcement.

Republicans also planned to reject Gov. Tony Evers' proposal to set the minimum hourly wage for state workers at $15.

The Republican-controlled Joint Committee on Employment Relations was scheduled to meet Wednesday to approve 2% pay raises in each of the next two years for state employees and workers at the University of Wisconsin System and on the Madison campus. But the troopers' contract, which would include retroactive pay increases of 2% for 2018 and 2019, was not included on the agenda released Tuesday.

“Disappointed would be the main word we could use,” said Chad Thompson, a master sergeant in the patrol based in Wood County, who is also president of the Wisconsin Law Enforcement Association. “People don’t do this job to get rich. The pay is not the reason why people choose to come here and stay here. These people like their job, but right now they’re upset.”

Republican senators were concerned about the double-digit percentage increase in pay for starting salaries and wanted more time to review it, said Angela Roidt, a spokeswoman for Republican Senate President Roger Roth. Roidt said she didn't know if the contract would be voted on at a later date.

Roth and Assembly Speaker Robin Vos co-chair the committee. Vos has not responded to a message seeking comment.

Evers' spokeswoman Melissa Baldauff called the decision to reject the troopers' contract “unfortunate and disappointing.”

“I have no idea how Republicans in the majority party can vote to raise their own salaries while shortchanging the men and women in uniform who patrol our streets and keep our communities safe," said Democratic Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling, a member of the committee that is to vote on pay raises. “Outside of the state Capitol, these officers have our back. Inside the Capitol, we should have theirs.”

Democratic Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz, also a member of the committee, said he hoped the patrol contract could be voted on at a later date.

Wisconsin has about 370 state troopers.

The troopers' deal would raise starting salaries from about $44,000 a year to nearly $54,000. That is an increase of about 23%. It's designed to bring troopers in line with other law enforcement agencies. Police officers in Milwaukee, Madison, Eau Claire, Fond du Lac, La Crosse, Green Bay and a host of other agencies all have higher starting salaries.

Thompson said the $5 million price tag for those salary increases was too high for lawmakers. But he said it’s needed for the patrol to be competitive. Troopers have received one pay raise in the past decade, he said.

The troopers deal was to cover 2017-2019. They did not have an agreement between 2015 and 2017.

Evers has also asked the special committee to approve a $15 minimum starting wage for state workers. Evers first asked for the $15 minimum wage in his budget proposal that Republicans rejected. He renewed the call when submitting the pay plan to the special committee for approval, but Republicans who control the panel planned to reject it based on a list of changes to the contract they circulated Tuesday ahead of the vote.