During last year’s tough budget cycle, state workers were left without a raise (merit or cost-of-living). In the three years before that we had to fight with all our might to secure minimal raises, ranging from 1%-2.5% plus Merit Pay.
On August 1, the state released its annual compensation analysis, which revealed that state employee wages are falling further and further behind the private sector median, to the average of 5.7% this year.
Last year’s report showed that state employee base salaries were already 3% behind the market – we’re clearly headed in the wrong direction.
In its report, DPA has identified a few options to bring worker pay closer to the private sector. Among them, a 1% across-the-board raise for state workers and an average 3% Merit Pay increase. The Department also identified adjusting the minimum pay ranges for all classifications by 2.2%, which would only affect the workers who fall below the minimum range of pay.
Even if these modest adjustments make it into the Governor’s budget proposal in November, the fact is state employee wages are lagging significantly behind the market and it is having a real impact on the quality of services we can deliver to Colorado taxpayers.
Let’s be clear – a 6% raise will cost in the neighborhood of $150 million. But with each passing year that price tag will only grow. Recruiting and retaining the best public servants possible must be a priority for the state and that means making a significant investment in state employees.
State employees are not alone in their struggle to be funded at a level equivalent to their importance to the state. Thanks to TABOR and the state Senate’s refusal last legislative session to make a small technical change to the Hospital Provider Fee, Colorado policy makers have been forced into an untenable position. K-12 education is underfunded. Our roads and bridges are underfunded. State employee wages are underfunded. We need systemic changes to the state’s fiscal system or state employees, and other key investments, will continue to fall behind.
So while we’re fighting for our raise this year, we’re also going to fight for reforms that bring much needed revenue to state government. We’re going to fight for a change in the Hospital Provider Fee, which could bring $155 million in revenue to the General Fund. We’re going to fight back against bad corporate actors who pay such low wages the state is forced to spend $300 million a year providing health insurance to their employees.
Brothers and Sisters, as an organization we’re putting our foot down – no more kicking the can down the road on the state employee wage gap. But that means we all need to be engaged more than ever in this election and the 2017 legislative session.