Following tonight's vote by the State Employees' Association (SEA) Collective Bargaining Senate to recommend approval of a new state contract, Governor Maggie Hassan issued the following statement:
"Throughout the recession, New Hampshire's dedicated and hard-working state employees pitched in by giving up pay raises, paying more for their health care and doing more with less as the state workforce dropped by 1100 positions. This is a fair agreement for both employees and taxpayers that will provide the first cost-of-living raises for employees in five years and provide important healthcare savings to the state.
"Encouraging preventive care, through basic measures like flu shots and physicals, and improving the coordination of health care will strengthen the well-being of state employees and help generate significant savings for the state. By coming together and working constructively, we have successfully achieved our shared goals of providing additional support to our state employees while strengthening the state's long-term financial outlook through an innovative approach to reducing healthcare costs.
"I thank the SEA leadership team and state negotiators for their good-faith efforts to find common ground and reach a deal, within the constraints of the state budget, that is fair to all parties."
The contract will provide the first cost-of-living pay increases in five years and help reduce the state's projected growth in healthcare costs, with employees receiving benefits if the state's healthcare costs come in under projections.
In return, employees are agreeing to take a more active role in managing their health and healthcare costs. The state will switch to a site-of-service plan, where certain services employees will have the option to go to select providers or pay a deductible. In exchange for working to improve their own health through activities such as taking a health assessment test, getting a physical, receiving a flu shot or having their blood pressure checked, employees can earn up to $500 a year through a health reimbursement account and a wellness reimbursement program. This money can be used for healthcare expenses such as deductibles or eye glasses. Employees also agreed to contribute toward their dental plan for the first time.
Under the agreement, members of the SEA will receive a one-time payment of $300 and a 1.5 percent cost-of-living increase for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2014. They will receive a 2 1/4 percent raise in July 2014 and a 2 1/4 percent raise in January 2015.
With reductions in utilization and the changes in the health plan, the state has been able to significantly lower its projections for its healthcare costs for Jan. 1, 2014, through Jan. 1, 2015. Those savings will be shared with all state employees in the form of a $300 check in January 2014 and a $300 check in January 2015. In addition, if actual results are lower than projected, active employees will receive an additional healthcare benefit savings incentive payment.
The agreement is subject to ratification by a vote of SEA membership. The three other unions representing New Hampshire's public employees - New Hampshire Troopers Association, Teamsters Local 633, and the New England Police Benevolent Association - have already ratified similar contracts, some provisions of which will be updated to reflect the SEA agreement.