The Minnesota Senate and House on strong bipartisan votes approved new contracts that 10 state employee unions negotiated with the Dayton administration.

Workers would get a two-percent increase retroactive to July 1st 2017 and an additional 2.25 percent effective this July.

Democrat Erik Simonson said the bill addresses one area of particular concern to Republicans in that, “Our agencies, our commissioners, have committed to absorbing the costs of some of these increases within their existing budgets.’

Earlier some Republicans had proposed changes to the contracts which Democrats called “union-busting language.”

Republican Michelle Benson voted “no”, pointing to what she called the Dayton administration’s inflexibility — for example in the state’s I-T Department: where, “We have a new commissioner… who is going to try to reform a non-functioning department, and there’s nothing in these contracts that gives her the flexibility to recruit and retain talent that will be essential.”

Some Republicans want to take the MN-LARS project away from the state I-T Department because of ongoing problems with the vehicle registration system.

The Minnesota Senate also unanimously approved major changes to the state employee pension system. Democrat Sandy Pappas said pension funds have $60 billion in assets but $80 billion in liabilities and, “With our population aging and people living longer, we have to provide the funds now instead of kicking the can down the road.”

Pension changes include increases in state and employee contributions, lowering and freezing automatic cost-of-living increases, and reducing early retirement benefits.

Republican Julie Rosen said the legislation, “Reflects a shared sacrifice. All stakeholders were engaged.”

Rosen said the changes save the state more than $6 billion over 30 years. Over a half million active and retired public employees are affected.