Wyoming Gov. Mead to push again for state employee pay raises

2013-07-10T23:45:00Z 2013-07-10T23:48:24Z Wyoming Gov. Mead to push again for state employee pay raisesBy JOAN BARRON Casper Star-Tribune The Billings Gazette
July 10, 2013 11:45 pm  • 

CHEYENNE — Faced with base salaries for state government employees dropping for the first time in 20 years and a rising turnover rate, Gov. Matt Mead says he will make another push for pay hikes during the Legislature’s budget session next year.

His other budget priority will be more money for cities, towns and counties, the governor said Wednesday in a news conference.

The Legislature last winter rejected Mead’s proposal for an $11 million pay package for executive branch, university, community college and judiciary nonjudge employees.

The lawmakers instead approved a one-time employee retention payment of up to 1 percent.

Employee turnover in the executive branch is now up to 15 percent, Mead said Wednesday.

“That is not a savings when you spend ten years getting someone trained up and someone else snatches them.” he said.

“This is something we have to do and I will make that pitch to the Legislature.”

Pay package request

His pay package request, which will include the University of Wyoming, is contingent on continued positive revenue projections.

Rep. Ken Esquibel, D-Cheyenne, a member of the Joint Appropriations Committee, said he believes the governor’s proposal will get a better reception this year from the Legislature.

“We’re losing our best people,” Esquibel said. “It’s the way of the world these days. If you have a better offer, they’ll take it,” he said.

The state has adequate financial resource to take care of its state employees, Esquibel said.

City and county employees, he said, are getting pay raises of three percent or more, he noted.

“We’ve been taking good care of our local governments recently but we’ve been dropping the ball on our state workers,” he said.

Mead asked the Wyoming Public Employees Association during a recent state meeting to help him get the pay raises through the Legislature, WPEA Director Betty Jo Beardsley said later Wednesday.

Many state employees have not had a bump in their base pay in five years, she said.

The WPEA board set pay raises as the organization’s top priority.

‘All the stops are out’

“We’re going to go after anything we can get,” including market pay or a cost of living increase, she said. “All the stops are out.”

Mead, meanwhile, said he intends to prepare a budget for the next biennium with a series of tiers.

The first would show the previous budget and the budget cuts made earlier, followed by spending mandated by the federal government and the Legislature.

The last tier will include his recommendations, including the employee pay package and a unified Internet network to provide broadband to 95 percent of state public schools.

Mead also said he hopes to have enough information from the departments of Health and Insurance to make a decision on whether the state should expand Medicaid coverage under the option in the Affordable Care Act.

Mead is one of six state governors leaning against expansion as of June 2013, according to The Advisory Board Company, a research and consulting firm active in the health care and higher education fields.

A total of 26 governors are supporting expansion, 13 are not participating, four have alternate programs and one state is learning toward participating.

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