Most state workers did not receive a pay raise this year; many got less than lawmakers authorized

Kansas Statehouse in Topeka, February 2014.

? Kansas lawmakers put more than $11 million into this year’s budget to fund pay raises for state employees who haven’t seen a raise in a long time, but the way they structured the plan made most employees ineligible, and some ended up getting less than lawmakers thought they had authorized.

Kraig Knowlton, director of office and personnel services in the Kansas Department of Administration, briefed the Legislative Budget Committee Thursday on how the pay raises were allocated.

Within the Regents university system, which makes up the largest group of state employees, only about 38 percent of employees qualified for a pay raise, he said.

Outside of the Regents system, barely half of the executive branch employees, 51.38 percent, received any kind of increase, and only 22 percent of legislative branch employees received a raise.

Under the plan lawmakers approved, employees who have worked for the state less than five years received a 2.5 percent raise. That group made up the overwhelming majority of people who received raises.

People who have worked for the state more than five years could receive a 5 percent raise, but only if they had not had any kind of pay raise during the past five years. Because most employees who’ve worked for the state more than five years did get a promotion or a small merit increase during that time, the vast majority of veteran employees did not qualify for any kind of raise, Knowlton said.

The plan also excluded legislators themselves and statewide elected officials. All judicial branch employees received a 2.5 percent raise.

Furthermore, many of the people who did get raises ended up getting less than the 2.5 or 5 percent that lawmakers authorized, Knowlton said, because they are classified employees whose hourly wage must fall precisely on a rate that is listed in the state’s pay matrix.

That matrix, which was last updated in 2008, specifies exactly how much individuals in classified positions are supposed to be paid based on the number of years they have been on the job, although the state has not funded those “step increases” in several years.

“Classified employees must be paid on a rate that’s in the pay matrix,” Knowlton told the committee.

Robert Choromanski, executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, a union that represents many classified workers, had written to committee members in advance, saying many of them received only a 4.79 percent raise instead of 5 percent.

“Have we ever thought about fixing that?” Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, asked.

She also asked whether private businesses have the same issue regarding pay raises, or if that was unique to the state of Kansas.

“I don’t know about other businesses, but it’s a feature the state of Kansas has dealt with for decades,” Knowlton said.