Thursday, September 22, 2016

Pay may inch up for state employees

Posted By on Thu, Sep 22, 2016 at 7:29 AM

Gov. Asa Hutchinson has backed a state pay plan for next year that provides a 1 percent pay raise for most state employees. Not much, but better than nothing, which was the COLA this year.

Yes, some improvement will be made above that level at the low end of the scale, those working poor who were omitted from the governor's income tax cut because they prosper so much.  This will be particularly welcome for the 115 state employees who still make only $8 an hour. Minimum pay will rise to roughly $11 an hour for those workers. If the legislature is willing. And that's a big IF.

Reminder: Median income in the U.S. rose by 5.2 percent between 2014 and 2015, the Census said recently. But Arkansas lagged badly, rising only by 1.7 percent, which dropped us to 49th in the country. Asa will go state workers even less next year.

I look forward to the new year, when the group constitutionally mandated by a greedy legislature that gulled voters will again meet to determine whether state officials — legislators, statewide officials and judges — deserve a pay raise. The commission saw no need to meet this year, given the zero state employees got. It was a wise decision by the commission, but I understand some state officials were peeved. They value their worth high, particularly a couple of the $166,000 Supreme Court justices (Karen Baker and Jo Hart), who despite being among the highest paid Supreme Court judges in the country, particularly given the state's poverty, thought the pay wasn't nearly enough.

Elected officials should get no more than state employees. And it shouldn't be a given that they get that.  They all do disproportionately better than colleagues nationwide on average, something you can't say about many state employees.

Public officials got huge raises (145 percent for legislators) in the first round granted by the amendment's  new independent pay commission. That amendment also gave legislators longer terms and a fat loophole from the nominal restriction on lobbyist wining and dining.

PS: I noticed this morning that Sen. Joyce Elliott Tweeted about the terrible impact of incentive pay plans at Wells Fargo. It produced rampant fraud. I don't know she meant to suggest this in context with state employee pay, but the parallel is obvious. If the state moves to "performance" pay, as the governor wants to do, will performance be judged by how well a state employee carries out a political agenda (including proper deference off the job as well as on?). It is a fair question when the time comes. Be sure of this: The Bledsoes will get plenty.

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