Most state workers won't get pay raise Budget also rules out cost-of-living increase for 71,000 employees

January 16, 1996|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer Peter Jensen contributed to this article.

Most state workers will not receive a pay raise in the budget being submitted to lawmakers this week by Gov. Parris N. Glendening, his budget secretary said yesterday.

The governor's roughly $15 billion budget includes no cost-of-living increase for state employees, said Marita B. Brown, the budget secretary.

While junior employees will still receive so-called step increases, the governor's decision means that nearly 60 percent of the state's 71,000 government workers will not get a raise.

The cost-of-living raise was a casualty of a fiscal situation made worse by federal budget cuts and Maryland's stagnant economy, Ms. Brown said.

But Dianna Rosborough, the governor's press secretary, said the lack of a cost-of-living raise was also part of a broader administration strategy to revamp the state's personnel system and move toward a "pay-for-performance" system.

That would represent a move away from traditional across-the-board raises typically sought by employee unions. Mrs. Rosborough did not elaborate on the proposal and said she could not say when details would be released.

State employees received a 2 percent cost-of-living raise this year -- only their second raise in the past five years.

Union leaders said they were disappointed that most workers will not receive a raise next year, though they said the decision was not unexpected given the state's budget crunch.

"I think it's awful," said Katharine Goeller, legislative director for the Maryland Classified Employees Association. "These employees are seriously underpaid right now. They should be rewarded for a job well done."

Mrs. Rosborough said the governor plans to help state workers in other ways -- by pushing for legislation to give them collective bargaining rights, for example. "There are things the administration intends to do that will help state employees," she said.

A 1 percent pay raise for state workers would have cost the state roughly $19 million.

That would represent a tenth of 1 percent of the $15 billion budget that Mr. Glendening is expected to unveil tomorrow, a budget that has little or no growth in many state agencies.

The governor has said that he intends to cut the number of state jobs by about 1,000 a year -- largely through attrition, although he has said some employees will be laid off.

Union officials predicted the lack of pay increases would make it harder for legislators to try to cut state income taxes this year.

"If it's such a hard time, a tax cut would be a particular slap in the face," said Kim Keller, a spokeswoman for another state employee union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 92.

She noted that a recent survey conducted by AFSCME found low morale among state workers.

Fifty-nine percent of the 2,100 surveyed said promotional opportunities were not good, 50 percent rated pay as not good and two-thirds described their agency as ineffective in pursuing its goals, she said.

Sue Esty, an AFSCME lobbyist, said the survey results reflect the frustration of low wages, an expanded workweek, increased workloads and the expectation of future layoffs.

"State employees have been giving, giving, giving and not getting anything," Ms. Esty said. "At what point does this break the back of state employees?"

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