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Archive for Thursday, January 14, 2010

Kansas Legislature committee votes to curtail salary raises

January 14, 2010

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— A House-Senate oversight committee voted Wednesday to abandon efforts to secure millions of dollars for raises scheduled to be paid in December 2010 to thousands of state workers under a new compensation program.

Instead, the State Employee Pay Plan Oversight Committee chose to focus during the 2010 session on retaining $8.5 million earmarked to upgrade wages of the most acutely underpaid civil service employees in Kansas government.

Gov. Mark Parkinson included the $8.5 million in his budget proposal for the coming fiscal year, but he made no provision for at least $3 million that was to accompany implementation of the new compensation program marrying extensive job performance reviews with a merit-pay structure. The program was designed to provide about 6,000 state workers with a 3 percent pay hike in December.

Democratic and Republican legislators on the committee agreed the state's budget deficit would make it challenging to hold on to the $8.5 million and would make securing the additional resources nearly impossible.

"If we get greedy, it may backfire," said Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka. "The world really has changed since we started this process."

Rep. Pat George, R-Dodge City, said a recommendation to the Legislature for full funding of the state salary plan would be dead on arrival.

"We know our challenges," he said. "I'm just being a pragmatist."

Surveys of government and private employers in Kansas and eight other states revealed discrepancies in wages. Overall, thousands of state employees in Kansas are underpaid in comparison to peers in those fields.

Kraig Knowlton, who works in personnel services in the Kansas Department of Administration, said the latest market survey offered new examples of occupations in which state government paid less than employers in Nebraska, Iowa, Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico, Missouri, Arkansas, Wyoming and Kansas.

Examples of job classifications in Kansas government and peer salary comparisons in the new study: accountant II in Kansas receives 89 percent of $45,600 paid peers; architect II earns 71 percent of $63,900 paid peers; senior corrections industry manager earns 79 percent of $54,700 paid peers; extension nutrition assistant I makes 64 percent of $32,300 paid peers; and engineering technician takes in 73 percent of $42,000 paid peers.

Jane Carter, executive director of the Kansas Association of State Employees, said she couldn't support the decision to walk away from implementation of the 3 percent raises outlined by the new pay structure previously endorsed by the Legislature.

"We're going to be stopping a promise made to state employees," she said. "The moment you pause, you lose credibility."

The last across-the-board raise for state workers was adopted in 2008 and paid an average of 2.5 percent.

Knowlton said complete abandonment by lawmakers of strategies to make state employee salaries more competitive would be met with despair by workers.

"That could be a real bad situation," he said. "Without good funding this thing isn't going to work."

George said the moderate approach endorsed by the oversight committee recognized there was a balance to be sought between the state's need for fiscal austerity and each employee's need to make a living.

"I don't want to see this implode this year," George said.

Comments

farva 4 years, 9 months ago

They've been working on this for about 4 years...implementing a little each year. Of course the higher level administration was the first to go through the process and has already received their reclassification, if pertinent, and raises. Too bad the rest of the professional employees got overlooked again. Billions of dollars in the budget...and they can't find a measly 3 million extra to follow through with their promises? No step increase in half a decade, because they "were working on a new evaluation/compensation system" with annual promises they would fix the old system which didn't need to be fixed, it just needed to be followed Ridiculous. I make less money now than I did when I first started...years of experience with new hires being paid the same...plus with few raises, salaries haven't even come close to matching inflation and cost of living increases.

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timetospeakup 4 years, 9 months ago

amen farva. It's no wonder the government is inefficient, there's no incentive for the workers to do anything better since there's no way to get a raise or promotion for the vast majority of the people in positions to actually increase efficiency and help realize improvements.

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billbodiggens 4 years, 9 months ago

No incentives at any time except for the legislators themselves who gave themselves a 6% raise last year while everybody else was left wanting and people were being laid off. They must need to cut off any future raises for employees so they can have their own increases. Hope they enjoy themselves, it would be sad to pillage and not enjoy it.

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admireed 4 years, 9 months ago

No money left after education gets there ever growing slice of the pie. None left for those not represented by KNEA

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14rcjh 4 years, 9 months ago

Completely agreed admireed, huge education supporter but KNEA and the constant barrage of inforamation sent to get their members in a frenzy being very self serving given the state's budget situation.

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avoice 4 years, 9 months ago

Tanzer, don't you mean "leave the public sector" instead of "leave for the public sector"? If you really have better offers, you should take one of them and make your public sector job available to someone who doesn't have one.

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Citizen 4 years, 9 months ago

This is no surprise. They didn't fund steps and COLAs when they did have money. I am just hoping to not get a pay cut or laid off this year.

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UfoPilot 4 years, 9 months ago

Get your priorities straight, After all, they have to pay for repainting the capital to the tune of 280 mil...

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Thinking_Out_Loud 4 years, 9 months ago

Anyone who actually believed, when this started, that the Legislature would complete it deserves what they get. They haven't been very good about follow-through. Consider:

They've been told consistently what the state's pension plan needs to cover the "unfunded liability," and they've consistently ignored it. They thought it would be neat a few years back to have a presidential primary. When the time came, they refused to fund it and it never happened. They hired a consultant to tell them how much an adequate and equitable educational system would cost. They didn't like the answer, dropped the report in a drawer, and ignored it. They were sued, and told the Supreme Court they would fund education at a lower level. The Supremes accepted the lower level of funding. They've not funded the amount they promised. Apparently, they agreed to bring salaries up to speed, and now are refusing to honor that agreement.

Tanzer, thanks for what you do. Please don't go earn more in the private sector--I can't afford the increase in taxes it would take to replace you!

It seems to me that the public sector is much less stable this year than the private. I'm glad my wife and I both have stable jobs in stable industries. I don't think I could work in the environment tanzer, farva, and Citizen do. Certainly wouldn't do it if my salary wasn't beating inflation and I weren't getting nice bonuses most years.

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