State employees overpaid?!
On November 2, Montanans elected a strong majority of Republicans to the state legislature.
Unfortunately, that means serious trouble for public services and the hard-working Montanans who provide them. This news article is a sign of more to come.
State Sen. Dave Lewis is on a mission to cap state employees' pay. But recent reports show that Lewis himself, a state employee for many years, made $70,000 and $75,000 working for state government in 1992 and 1999. The latter salary adjusted for inflation would be nearly $109,000 in 2010. Read more.
Senator would ask voters to cap state employees' pay, benefits
By CHARLES S. JOHNSON Gazette State Bureau | Monday, November 8, 2010
HELENA — Sen. Dave Lewis, R-Helena, a retired longtime state employee and budget director, is having a bill drafted to ask voters to limit the pay and benefits of state workers.
Lewis said he is considering capping state employees' salaries at twice the average Montana family's income, which he estimated is about $40,000 per family. So he would cap employees' pay at $80,000.
"When I retired 10 years ago, I never made over $55,000," Lewis said. "Management salaries have doubled over 10 years. I think that's way more than taxpayers can afford."
When Lewis campaigned for a fellow Republican senator in East Helena recently, he said a number of state employees complained to him about how management salaries had soared to $80,000, $90,000 and $100,000 levels.
If Lewis is able to steer his proposal through both Republican-controlled legislative chambers as a referendum, it would go directly to the ballot for voters to decide instead of facing a veto from Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer.
Eric Feaver, president of the MEA-MFT, a union representing teachers and state and local government employees, said he disagrees with Lewis, an old friend.
"I think he's jumped off a cliff," Feaver said. "Dave Lewis, who has himself had a long and distinguished career in public service and who lives off a state pension, thinks that times have changed, that future state employees should not enjoy the same salaries and benefits that he's enjoyed. I find that very troubling."
Feaver said state government doesn't pay its managers or its employees enough.
"We have plenty of evidence that state employees across the board are below market," he said. "We've made some progress over the last two decades, but not over the past two years. State employees just are not overpaid, not over-benefited."
Lewis said the state "basically lost control" over managers' pay when it adopted what's known as a broadband pay system, which the state fully implemented in 2007.
The Department of Administration defines the broadband pay plan as "an enterprise-wide plan that allows state agencies the flexibility to develop their own pay plan rules using any combination of market, competencies, or performance within broad statutory and policy parameters and authorized funding levels."
The agency says this system "allows state agencies to strategically link their own pay rules to their unique missions and more quickly adapt pay practices to changing demographics and labor markets."
Paula Stoll, administrator of the state's Human Resources Division, said state government is more competitive with the market in lower scale jobs than at higher scale ones.
She said the state employees' pay, on average, is 11 percent below private and public sector pay for comparable jobs in the region, according to a market analysis completed in July.
When benefits are added, that lowers the difference by 4 percent to about 7 percent, she said.
For state jobs such as division administrators and bureau chiefs that are defined as "operations managers," the state government pay rates are 25 percent to 30 percent below the average pay levels in the private and public sectors in the region.
For example, a pay band seven job that pays a Montana employee $68,473 averages $99,100 in the private and public sectors regionally, or 30 percent less, according to the state's market study. A pay band nine job that pays $98,404 in Montana averages $142,704 in the private and public sector regionally, or 31 percent less.