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HELENA — A Helena legislator is proposing to give a pay hike to state employees — but only if state tax collections improve enough to meet a certain trigger.

Democratic Rep. Chuck Hunter said his bill would provide for pay increases of at least 2 percent in each of the next two years for state employees, if the revenue growth hits a level set by the 2011 Legislature.

Hunter is confident that state tax collections will improve enough so the trigger can be met and the pay increases will go through.

"I really do believe, and I've heard the governor say this, that the economy is improving," Hunter said Wednesday. "I see upticks happening."

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Hunter said he will introduce his bill, despite the tentative pay deal reached Wednesday by the Schweitzer administration and unions.

He said it's unlikely the Legislature would approve a traditional pay increase for state employees. If not, his bill would work well at the end of the session as an option, he said.

Hunter said state employees deserve a raise because of the pay freeze and because they have been asked to take on higher workloads with fewer people. State personnel budgets were cut by 7 percent in 2009 to account for anticipated turnover in workers.

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