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Civil service body freezes pay

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Written by Melinda Deslatte
The Associated Press


BATON ROUGE — Louisiana’s state workers won’t be getting pay raises for a second year.

 The Civil Service Commission voted 6-1 Wednesday to back Gov. Bobby Jindal’s request to freeze employee salaries and block annual “merit raises,” as Louisiana grapples with a budget shortfall.

The decision affects 56,000 rank-and-file government workers, called classified employees. The Jindal administration says agencies can’t afford the 4 percent pay raises, which are based on annual evaluations, and civil service leaders agreed.

“We’re responding to the whole state fiscal crisis,” said David Duplantier, chairman of the seven member commission.

Pay was frozen in the budget year that ends June 30. The proposal approved by the commission will again suspend the merit raises in the 2011-12 fiscal year that starts July 1, as the state works to close a $1.6 billion budget gap.

Jindal said he’ll similarly freeze pay raises for thousands of political appointees, known as unclassified workers, in the cabinet agencies under his control. Legislative agencies also have suspended merit increases.

The governor’s budget office estimates the pay freeze would save the state $55 million, including nearly $17 million in state general fund dollars.

The only commission member to vote against the pay raise suspension was Helen Jones, the employee representative on the panel.

She sided with the hundreds of workers who e-mailed to oppose the pay freeze and who said it was unfair to balance the budget on the backs of state workers.

“In effect, this is a pay cut. The 4 percent merit doesn’t even keep up with the costs that we’re being burdened with,” said Larry Hofstad, an employee at the Department of Transportation and Development who testified in person Wednesday against the raise suspension.

Hofstad said gas prices are rising, state employee health care costs are going up and the governor is proposing to require state workers to pay more toward their retirement.

“We’ve made our sacrifice,” he said.

Commission member John McLure said he worried that if state worker salaries weren’t frozen, that could force agencies to lay off employees to come up with the dollars for raises.

“I don’t think we have much choice,” he said.

Civil Service Director Shannon Templet has said suspending pay hikes in the current fiscal year has lessened the pink slips handed out to workers and could have the same impact next year.

The order won’t affect salary increases tied to job promotions, but only the merit raises that had become near automatic for most classified workers.

In some agencies, it will be the third year of pay freezes for workers, because a few individual departments had asked for special permission last year to suspend pay raises as well.


Written by demon53

April 7, 2011 at 3:14 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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