Archive for Tuesday, April 24, 2012

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

April 24, 2012

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— 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.”

Comments

Cant_have_it_both_ways 3 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.

ebyrdstarr 3 years ago

That's the problem, though. Did you not read the article? People ARE taking private sector jobs, not staying at state jobs, leaving core state agencies understaffed and necessary job positions vacant. Like it or not, there really are some services the state must provide and we really do need qualified employees in those jobs. Like Larned State Hospital, which houses prison inmates with severe mental illnesses and sexual predators who have been civilly committed. I assume you want those people in custody and not roaming the streets, right? If your answer is yes, then perhaps you should take your own advice.

progressive_thinker 3 years ago

Actually, the state is creating a serious public safety threat by imposing "forced overtime" up to 16 hour shifts. Forcing folks to routinely work 16 hours, then off for 8. then back for 16 more creates a workforce that is inattentive and prone to making a mistake that could cause harm to an inmate, worker, or citizen on the outside.

When one applies for a job such as this, they are aware that they might occasionally be forced over for a shift. Most take that level of forced overtime in stride. But being forced over 2, 3, or more times per week is unreasonable by any standard.

And if you think that this "take ti or leave it" attitude will work, you might wish to read some archive news from late '81, early 82. The Kansas legislature took that attitude, and the corrections officers at Kansas State Penitentiary [now known as LCF] threatened to walk out, even without having immediate prospects for jobs elsewhere. The state was faced with having to staff it's major maximum security prison with national guard troops, until they could figure out how to staff the place again. The state legislature ended up raising officer pay, and enhancing retirement benefits. As it stands now, the pay scale has sorely lagged for the past several years, to the extent that officers at LCF do not make as much as officers at the private prison in Leavenworth.

Prisons, mental hospitals, and other such institutions are not a good place to try to run without experienced staff. To keep them, Kansas will have to pay them.

chootspa 3 years ago

They're probably forcing a crisis where they have to pay some private entity to skim a little off the top and run it as an "efficient" private market enterprise. You know, worship the market, bow down before its perfection. Privatizing services that could more efficiently and transparently be run by public entities is a great way to grease a few campaign donor palms.

formergrocerybagger 3 years ago

Do you have links to the early eightes LCF labor issues? I am a former LCF correctional officer (much later then 81) that left for a better paying job at a local county. I tried using google, and did not find much worthwhile.

progressive_thinker 3 years ago

Here is an article that notes that the then governor was personally meeting with prison security staff. Among the issues were pay and retirement.

http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1906&dat=19811021&id=KfAhAAAAIBAJ&sjid=A9kEAAAAIBAJ&pg=1600,3766158

napoleon969 3 years ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

Jimo 3 years ago

Editors -- can we have a "delete" button for comments from people who clearly didn't bother to read the article first?

avarom 2 years, 10 months ago

Some rules in the government you have no control over, like the article below. Who would imagine, that rules are different for state workers, plus their pension benefits. Huge Abuse of Power, stop voting, then no one wins!! In Kansas, legislators have cast three crucial votes to boost their pensions far above the benefit they would get from a salary that pays $88.66 each day the Legislature convenes, or $7,979 for a typical 90-day session.

Lawmakers voted in 1973 to calculate their pensions as if they were paid every day of the year. The vote also declared that legislators were paid 31 days a month for 12 months — or 372 days a year.

"It's a little shocking," says Jane Carter, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, which represents 10,000 state workers. "Our members have to work every single day for their pensions."

In 1982, Kansas lawmakers boosted their pensions again by adding per diem allowances to their salaries for pension purposes. They also pretended the allowances were paid 372 days a year when in reality they are paid only when legislators are in session. And they added to the pension equation the expense payments they get between legislative sessions.

But many lawmakers could not collect because they, like other state workers, needed 10 years of service to retire. "A lot of legislators in the past didn't serve 10 years and weren't eligible for a pension," says Morris, the Kansas lawmaker. The Legislature changed that in 2007, voting to let workers retire with five years' service while requiring they pay more into the retirement fund. Though the lower retirement age helps all Kansas state workers, the effect on its 165 lawmakers was profound: an extra 44 of them instantly qualified for a pension. Now, 93 of the state's 165 legislators have qualified for a pension, and another 15 will be eligible if they finish their current terms. Lawmakers now have an $85,821 salary for pension purposes and get a pension that exceeds their base pay by serving just six years.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2011-10-11-1A-state-lawmakers-pump-pensions.htm

avarom 2 years, 10 months ago

Some rules in the government you have no control over, like the article below. Who would imagine, that rules are different for state workers, plus their pension benefits. Huge Abuse of Power, stop voting, then no one wins!! In Kansas, legislators have cast three crucial votes to boost their pensions far above the benefit they would get from a salary that pays $88.66 each day the Legislature convenes, or $7,979 for a typical 90-day session.

Lawmakers voted in 1973 to calculate their pensions as if they were paid every day of the year. The vote also declared that legislators were paid 31 days a month for 12 months — or 372 days a year.

"It's a little shocking," says Jane Carter, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, which represents 10,000 state workers. "Our members have to work every single day for their pensions."

In 1982, Kansas lawmakers boosted their pensions again by adding per diem allowances to their salaries for pension purposes. They also pretended the allowances were paid 372 days a year when in reality they are paid only when legislators are in session. And they added to the pension equation the expense payments they get between legislative sessions.

But many lawmakers could not collect because they, like other state workers, needed 10 years of service to retire. "A lot of legislators in the past didn't serve 10 years and weren't eligible for a pension," says Morris, the Kansas lawmaker. The Legislature changed that in 2007, voting to let workers retire with five years' service while requiring they pay more into the retirement fund. Though the lower retirement age helps all Kansas state workers, the effect on its 165 lawmakers was profound: an extra 44 of them instantly qualified for a pension. Now, 93 of the state's 165 legislators have qualified for a pension, and another 15 will be eligible if they finish their current terms. Lawmakers now have an $85,821 salary for pension purposes and get a pension that exceeds their base pay by serving just six years.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2011-10-11-1A-state-lawmakers-pump-pensions.htm

avarom 2 years, 10 months ago

Some rules in the government you have no control over, like the article below. Who would imagine, that rules are different for state workers, plus their pension benefits. Huge Abuse of Power, stop voting, then no one wins!! In Kansas, legislators have cast three crucial votes to boost their pensions far above the benefit they would get from a salary that pays $88.66 each day the Legislature convenes, or $7,979 for a typical 90-day session.

Lawmakers voted in 1973 to calculate their pensions as if they were paid every day of the year. The vote also declared that legislators were paid 31 days a month for 12 months — or 372 days a year.

"It's a little shocking," says Jane Carter, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, which represents 10,000 state workers. "Our members have to work every single day for their pensions."

In 1982, Kansas lawmakers boosted their pensions again by adding per diem allowances to their salaries for pension purposes. They also pretended the allowances were paid 372 days a year when in reality they are paid only when legislators are in session. And they added to the pension equation the expense payments they get between legislative sessions.

But many lawmakers could not collect because they, like other state workers, needed 10 years of service to retire. "A lot of legislators in the past didn't serve 10 years and weren't eligible for a pension," says Morris, the Kansas lawmaker. The Legislature changed that in 2007, voting to let workers retire with five years' service while requiring they pay more into the retirement fund. Though the lower retirement age helps all Kansas state workers, the effect on its 165 lawmakers was profound: an extra 44 of them instantly qualified for a pension. Now, 93 of the state's 165 legislators have qualified for a pension, and another 15 will be eligible if they finish their current terms. Lawmakers now have an $85,821 salary for pension purposes and get a pension that exceeds their base pay by serving just six years.

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2011-10-11-1A-state-lawmakers-pump-pensions.htm

bd 3 years ago

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

jafs 3 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.

BlackVelvet 3 years ago

Topeka got all p*ssy when Boeing went back on their promise to keep jobs in Wichita, but it's okay for the Legislature to go back on their word? sheesh.....the Kansas Legislature has NEVER held state employees higher than a snake's belly as far as esteem. They figure "you don't like it, leave! We'll hire another one look just like ya"...course they have to pay to train the new employees all over again. But of course, they don't want term limits for themselves now, do they? Hypocrites, all of them.

jafs 3 years ago

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

progressive_thinker 3 years ago

Yes, but it is more complicated than just the overtime. I will copy a previous comment that I offered on this subject [the first two paragraphs are with regard to corrections officers]:

Before a newly hired officer can go on post, they are in training for a minimum of five weeks. They are paid during that five weeks. While the new officer is in training, the post that they will be assigned to cannot be left vacant, for obvious public safety reasons. It has to be covered by someone, on overtime, who is trained and qualified. Therefore the taxpayers are paying more than double to fill this position during the training period.

KDOC frequently loses corrections officers to a private prison in Leavenworth that pays about a dollar an hour more than the state. That private prison essentially gets trained personnel at the expense of the Kansas taxpayers. As well, KDOC loses trained and qualified employees to counties, other states, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

This same scenario plays out in state hospitals, the Juvenile Justice Authority, and the Department of Transportation. The DOT training program for the hardworking folks that run our snowplows is at lest two years.

The state also lost a lawsuit in the prison system regarding medical/mental health care. Persons who are involuntary wards of the state have an 8th amendment right to adequate health care. When the state fails to adequately pay physicians, health care aids, and the like, quality of care suffers. In June, 1988, the state was ordered, by Federal Judge Richard Rogers to upgrade the health services provided to inmates.

Alceste 3 years 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.....

nascar 3 years ago

You might want to take a look at Working Kansas Alliance, Alceste. The Kansas "Teachers' Union" was a founding member of this organization. In fact, there's a meeting on Wednesday in Topeka. Teachers are standing shoulder to shoulder with not only our friends from KOSE, but other workers in Kansas.

Alceste 3 years ago

Really?

Funny....I never see WRITTEN correspondance from teachers ever supporting state workers.

I am NO lover of KOSE or it's beginner KAPE....both did little or nothing......I have to tip my hat to the teachers' union....but they still disgust Alceste given they do not vocally, verbally, or in an manner of written support offer solidarity to state workers. The teachers' union don't care nothing about nobody ceptin teachers. shrug

werekoala 3 years 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.

Jimo 3 years 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?)

bad_dog 3 years ago

State worker, that's not an oxymoron.

There. Fixed it for ya.

JayhawksandHerd 3 years ago

That was supposed to be a response to Antonym. Apparently it doesn't matter if you click "reply" or not.

Jayhawk1958 3 years ago

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

Jayhawk1958 3 years ago

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

red6102003 3 years 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.

JayhawksandHerd 3 years ago

Who exactly are the "working people of this country?"

If you would have read the article, you would have noticed that state workers are leaving for jobs in the private sector, hence the issue with high turnover.

Personally, as others have already stated, I would prefer prisons, mental institutions, etc. to be staffed by well-qualified, experienced employees.

progressive_thinker 3 years ago

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

Sponges? The corrections officers that oversee our state prisons? The mental health aides who provide basic care for the mentally ill and disabled in our state hospitals? The equipment operators who go out in the middle of the night to clear snow so that people can travel safely? all "sponges"?

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

The federal jobs created under Obama were primarily either customs and border protection or military, both broadly supported by both political parties. So what is your point?

Randy Leonard 3 years 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.

mcallaigh 3 years 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?

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