LINCOLN — Most Nebraska state employees will get 2.25 percent pay increases this year and next year under a newly ratified union contract.

Representatives from the state and the Nebraska Association of Public Employees expressed satisfaction with the agreement.

“I think overall it's a pretty good contract, given the climate,” said Julie Dake Abel, executive director for the union.

“While we would like to see more, I think it's fair.”

The raises will be larger than in either of the two years covered by the current contract.

Employees included in the NAPE bargaining unit got no increase in the fiscal year starting July 1, 2011, and 2 percent in the current fiscal year.

Employees accepted those amounts to help the state close a nearly $1 billion budget gap.

The state's chief negotiator, Bill Wood, said the raises negotiated should be affordable for the state this budget period.

The contract will shrink the budget shortfall projected for the two-year period, which begins July 1.

Legislative fiscal staff had projected 2.5 percent raises each year.

“It's about what we were believing we would get,” Wood said.

“I think it was in the best interest of both parties to reach a negotiated settlement.”

Raises for the approximately 10,000 state employees covered by the NAPE contract will add about $8 million per year to state expenses, he said.

The agreement allows for employees to be charged higher deductibles and out-of-pocket costs for the most popular health insurance plan, but premiums will stay the same for a year.

The employee's share of premiums would stay at $104.84 per month for single coverage and $372.16 for family coverage, including spouse and children. The deductible for a single employee would increase to $800 per year, up from $500, and for a family would go to $1,600, up from $1,000.

The contract does not cover management employees or employees who work in the legislative and judicial branches of government.

Nebraska State Patrol troopers, Department of Education employees and teachers working at state institutions negotiate separately.

Wood said the troopers are to vote Thursday on whether to ratify their proposed contract.

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