Archive for Tuesday, April 24, 2012

State employee association calls on Legislature to fund under-market pay increase

April 24, 2012


— Gov. Sam Brownback says a key goal of his administration is creating jobs.

But state government cannot even fill the vacancies it has.

A recent report to the Legislature cites low pay as a major factor in the inability of several agencies, specifically state mental health hospitals, in filling needed positions, such as physicians, psychiatrists, nurses and mental health technicians.

This has led to severe under-staffing levels and the possibility that Larned State Hospital, which houses the state sexual predator treatment program. could lose its accreditation and nearly $14.5 million annually in federal funding. At Larned, mental health technicians are mandated to work an extra 12 hours to 24 hours per week, the state report said.

Osawatomie State Hospital and Rainbow Mental Health Facility in Kansas City, Kan. have also reported severe staffing shortages caused by low pay and Brownback's voluntary retirement incentive program offered last year to state employees.

On top of that, last week the Republican-controlled House Appropriations Committee rejected efforts to fund an under-market pay adjustment for the lowest paid state workers. Committee Chairman Marc Rhoades, R-Newton, said state employees complaining about pay should get jobs in the private sector.

Michelle Walters, president of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, said state workers are committed to their jobs and need to be fairly compensated.

"Not only are state workers dedicated to working to keep Kansans and their communities safe, but they are doing it to the point of mental and physical exhaustion,” Walters said.

The full Legislature returns Wednesday for the wrap-up session with a host of unresolved issues, including the state budget.

"We have state facilities severely understaffed with employees very frequently being mandated to work up to 16 hour shifts," Walters said. The state report said overtime wages at Larned increased 723 percent between February 2011 and last February.

In 2008, the Legislature approved a five-year plan to increase pay for certain groups of state employees who were paid far below their private sector counterparts. Legislators funded the first three years of the plan but failed to provide funding in the past two years as state government experienced historic revenue shortfalls during the recession.

But now the state has projected a surplus of $673.7 million for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.

Senate budget negotiators have approved transferring $8.5 million in general state revenue to boost the pay for those working in the under-market jobs. But Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee rejected a similar proposal.

Walters said inadequate pay has a long term expense.

“With such conditions and low pay, it is not surprising turnover rates are high, convicted felons are escaping, and Larned State Hospital’s accreditation is at risk,” she said. “State workers are not looking for anything more than simple fairness,” Walters said. “Yet our legislators can't muster a dime of respect for state workers.”


mcallaigh 1 year, 12 months ago

Why not let them scramble to the private sector for a while. A little time passes and the private sector says 'hey, why am I paying that much more than the public sector'. More time passes and the private sector doesn't give raises consistent with inflation, and eventually they come back to the pubic sector for less wages. And then businesses pay less for workers, and we pay less taxes as a percentage of our income. So what's the problem with low-balling workers, it worked out great for the majority of us in the last 3 decades or so, right?


bear1956 1 year, 12 months ago

It is pointless arguing with the right wing idiots. Most like Antonym cannot even compose a comprehensible sentence much less participate in a fact based reasoned discussion.


FalseHopeNoChange 1 year, 12 months ago

"But state government cannot even fill the vacancies it has."

lol good. These government sponges "suck" the life out of the "working people of this country"

Maybe they can find work in one of the millions and millions of jobs created by The Flexible Obama.


red6102003 1 year, 12 months ago

Wow how am I surprised the government is happy to vote themselves a raise almost every year to compensate for inflation yet the rest of America is left to fend for itself and it almost took an act from god to get minimum wage raised years ago and didn't Kansas just just refuse fed funds for healthcare? This country was founded on the principals By the People for the People I bet if you polled everyone in America or Kansas there ready for a raise prices are up on everything what the government thinks Americans need per month to survive is unrealistic.


Jayhawk1958 1 year, 12 months ago

State employees need to file a lawsuit. These mandates are unconstitutional.


Jayhawk1958 1 year, 12 months ago

Republicans continue to tighten the loose on the working people of this country.


Antonym 1 year, 12 months ago

State worker, not that's an oxymoron.


Jimo 1 year, 12 months ago

But we all know government workers are overpaid. They said so on Fox! LOL

The fact is low-skill government jobs typically are better compensated than private jobs. But only because they come with normal benefits and because private enterprise has regressed severely in the past two or so decades.

Higher-skill jobs, as referenced in this article, are typically much underpaid. What's more, such a deficient pay structure creates the questionable consequence that those who take these positions (often out of a laudable patriotism) eventually leave for financial reasons and sell their job knowledge to private entities whose goal is to soak the taxpayer via the bribery process.

The irony is that the same dysfunctional motivation that demands budget cuts and attacks government in general also leads to exacerbation of this revolving door between the regulator and the regulated - much to the detriment of the taxpayer or to the entire concept of equality before the law for all citizens. The only people who benefit are the wealthy and the powerful.

(But what would the modern world be like without the GOP complaining about the unavoidable consequences of its own policies?)


werekoala 1 year, 12 months ago

As many above me have noted, this is just another nail in the coffin of the "fiscal conservative" misnomer.

True fiscal responsibility has to be more than being penny-wise and pound-foolish.

And being consevative used to mean you cared about law and order.

Someone who is fine spending more money to make the public less safe cannot be a fiscal consevative. They are dangerous radicals, happy to watch the world burn, if it means advancing their ideology.

Why else jeopardize $14 million in federal funds to save $8.5 million? Because screw public employees? That's just dumb.


Alceste 1 year, 12 months ago

As long as Kansas remains a Right to Work (Right to Get the Shaft) state, as IT is written so it SHALL be...

and where is the teachers' union in showing solidarity for state workers on this matter? As I suspected....NOWHERE to be found.....


jafs 2 years ago

Lots of overtime also costs the state more money than just having adequate staff working regular hours, I would think.


jafs 2 years ago

It's interesting how people can't seem to read and comprehend the articles they're commenting on - the KS legislature made a 5 year commitment that they have failed to follow through on.

Given that we now have the money to do so, anybody who believes in integrity should support the legislature completing the last two years of it's commitment.


bd 2 years ago

Most have not seen much of a raise in 5 years.


Keith Richards 2 years ago

What do you propose can't have it? Just leave all of these positions unfilled and let sexual predators back on the street?


Cant_have_it_both_ways 2 years ago

If wages are so much better in the private sector...then go get a job in the private sector. Don't take the easy route and sit in your chair and complain.

Personal responsibility dictates that you do something about it. Remember, you asked to work for the state, they did not ask you. You need to either accept what you have, or get on down the road. If you don't then STFU.


toe 2 years ago

Since the voters want less state workers, lower wages seems a perfectly reasonable response.


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