CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Gov. Brian Sandoval drew the quiet ire of state workers Wednesday for dragging his feet on an additional 1-percent pay increase, bringing the annual total to 3 percent, when they had asked for 10 percent to make up for more than a decade of nearly stagnant pay.
The surprise 1-percent extra cost-of-living adjustment that Democratic lawmakers introduced in the final hours of the legislative session Monday night won’t come close to making up for state workers’ pay and benefit cuts during the economic downturn.
Union leader Harry Schiffman said state workers did not get what they deserve out of the 2017 session.
“It’s a punch in the stomach,” Schiffman said.
While Nevada’s economy and state revenue experience historic gains, the employees putting those dollars to work are making do on base salaries and benefits at least 20 percent behind their pre-recession rates.
Some full-time state employees are currently on public assistance, Schiffman said.
The University of Nevada, Las Vegas electrician is president of AFSCME 4041, which advocates on behalf of Nevada’s 18,000 state employees but cannot legally bargain with the government, unlike municipal workers’ unions.
He and state workers who traveled to the Legislature this year asked for 10 percent increases each of the next two years.
They tell Schiffman that lawmakers’ and the governor’s prolonged resistance to return their paychecks, travel reimbursements, retirement securities and other benefits anywhere close to where they were before the Great Recession feels like “a sign of disrespect that we’re not being considered meaningful for what we do.”
They received a 3-percent pay increase over the last two years.
Sandoval signed Assembly Bill 517 on Monday to increase their pay 2 percent each of the next two years and noted the state investment in in a speech. He also agreed to 5 percent annual boosts for corrections and highway patrol officers, in part because of massive turnover rates.
Those raises will cost about $55 million over the biennium.
“We understand that it costs a lot of money to fund workers’ salary, but if you want a reliable, dedicated workforce, you’re going to have to pay for it,” Schiffman said.
Sandoval said Wednesday his staff is calculating where the additional 1-percent pay hike would leave the state budget and, until they finish crunching the numbers, he remains undecided on Senate Bill 368. The bill appropriates $30.48 million over the biennium.
“Whether he wants to be a good guy or not, I don’t know,” Schiffman said, “but I don’t see how you could say no.”