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AUGUSTA, Maine(NEWS CENTER) - Maine's biggest state employee union says state workers want a pay raise. The Maine State Employees Association says its 12,000 members haven't had merit or longevity pay raises since January of 2009.

Union members say the lack of raises has hurt morale, and is also hurting the state's ability to recruit and keep good workers. State Finance Commissioner Sawin Millett made a similar statement last week to a Legislative committee. So the union is now asking Millett to change the budget and bring back those raises.

The Administration says the issue is still tied up by ongoing contract negotiations, which have been dragging on for nearly two years. Gov. LePage's spokeswoman, Adrienne Bennett, says the administration has set aside $8, 000, 000 for raises, but5 won't give those raises until a new contract is signed. Union leaders would only say the two sides are in "mediation", with no speculation about when a new contract agreement might be reached.

Union members did voice a specific complaint about the proposed new two-year state budget. They say it would eliminate longevity pay raises for about 3,000 workers, and that it would take away raises they already have received. Sen. Patrick Flood (R-Winthrop), a member of the Appropriations Committee, says the budget as currently written would, indeed, have that effect.

However, Flood says lawmakers made a similar mistake on a budget four years ago. He says they eventually corrected that problem and restored previously-approved raises. Flood says he thinks lawmakers don't want to repeat that mistake, and says he believes they would only be willing to eliminate future longevity raises, not the ones previously approved.

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