November 17, 2012 – Iowa’s largest public employees’ union began talks Friday with state officials on a new two-year state contract for 20,000 state workers that could be the most contentious in two decades. The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees requested a 1 percent across-the-board pay increase the first year and a 2 percent across-the-board pay increase the second year. Gov. Terry Branstad’s administration estimated the union’s proposal would cost the taxpayers $122 million the first year and an additional $159 million the second year, assuming the raises were extended to all state employees. The union’s offer would make no changes to the state’s health insurance program. About 85 percent of state employees currently pay no health insurance premiums. That’s become a major criticism from Branstad, who notes that most private-sector workers help pay for their health insurance costs.