The agreement, negotiated between the state and the Service Employees International Union Local 1000, would boost salaries 4.5 percent by 2015. The Assembly has already given it the green light, and rank-and-file union members have until Monday to cast ratification votes.
Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose, described the contract as a "modest agreement," particularly given the money workers have surrendered through furloughs over the last few years.
Several Republicans voted against the bill, which passed 27-8. Sen. Tom Berryhill, R-Oakdale, said the bill contradicted the will of voters who passed Proposition 30 in the fall by putting a chunk of the resulting revenue windfall towards state workers rather than schools.
"What happens when Prop 30 runs out, that tax money runs out?" Berryhill said. "The taxpayers are going to be on the hook."
In response, Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, said state workers have earned a raise after enduring years of budget-fueled cutbacks.
"It's easy to pick on state workers, but the facts are the facts," Steinberg said. "They have suffered, if you will, and lived through the same pain and difficulty that other people who rely on the state budget have suffered over the last five or six years."
PHOTO: California Capitol. The Sacramento Bee file, 2008/ Michael Allen Jones