Jindal proposes pay hikes for 40,000 state workers

Advocate file photo -- The Louisiana state capitol in Baton Rouge. Show caption
Advocate file photo -- The Louisiana state capitol in Baton Rouge.

The Jindal administration announced Wednesday that its proposed budget includes more than $60 million to fund pay raises for state employees in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The move affects nearly 40,000 Civil Service employees.

It marks the first pay raise in several years for thousands of employees whose agencies have not had the funds to cover the 4 percent raise that can be given annually based on their job performance.

“In order for state government to run efficiently, public servants dedicate their lives to the day-to-day operations of the people’s business. The people who serve Louisiana have worked to harness technology to maximize their productivity and innovate in ways that have created savings across the lines of service for each state government agency,” Commissioner of Administration Kristy Nichols said in a prepared statement. “For their dedication to the people of Louisiana,” Nichols said the budget fully funds the raises.

The announcement came as the administration prepared to submit its budget proposal for fiscal year 2015 to the Legislature on Friday.

State Senate Finance Chairman Jack Donahue, R-Mandeville, said pay raises are important because they help employees support their families.

In his private business, Donahue managed to give raises during the recent economic downturn. Donahue said he is uncertain whether state government is stable enough to start giving across-the-board pay raises.

“I’ve got to see the budget, see how many dollars we’re talking about. … It would be nice to do something,” he said.

Donahue said there are only so many dollars to divvy up.

The Jindal administration suspended employee pay raises in state fiscal year 2010-2011 and fiscal year 2011-2012 because of state fiscal woes.

Agencies could have granted pay raises in the current budget year if they had funds available within their appropriated budget. That created a patchwork of haves and have-nots depending on which agency an employee worked for.

Nearly half of Louisiana’s classified state employees received a 4 percent increase in their paychecks Oct. 1, including those working in social service, public safety, transportation, environmental, and wildlife agencies, as well as the government’s management arm.

But the remaining thousands of other rank-and-file state government workers did not get pay raises, including those employed by the state health agency, natural resources and corrections, as their agencies lacked the funding. Corrections officials said the agency would provide pay raises in February.

“It’s about time. They are long overdue and warranted,” said Frank Jobert, executive director of the Retired State Employees Association, which advocates for current and retired employees. He said he hoped it would be a precursor for administration support of a cost-of-living raise for retirees, which will be sought in the legislative session opening March 10.

As of Jan. 17, there were 39,783 state employees covered by Civil Service. Those employees are rated according to a Performance Evaluation System. The rating is used to determine whether an employee is eligible for a pay raise.

In addition, state agencies employ another 29,710 unclassified employees who are subject to hiring and firing at will. In general, unclassified employees, including political appointees, are not covered by the pay raise, according to Administration communications director Doug Baker.

Each agency will receive an appropriate funding allocation in its budget to cover the costs, Baker said.