Some raises bigger than others

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Last summer, we were feeling pretty good for state workers, who finally got decent pay raises averaging somewhere between 9 and 13 percent over the course of Nevada government's two-year budget.

Today, though, we're sympathetic for all but a handful -- the top three executives of the Public Employees Retirement System, who will be getting raises of 20 percent, 18 percent and 24 percent to bring each salary over $100,000 a year.

Apparently the people who watch over state workers' retirement benefits are more worthy than the workers themselves. Otherwise, why would they deserve salary increases at significantly higher percentages?

Lawmakers on the Retirement and Benefits Committee approved the raises this week, even as Sen. Bill Raggio was raising his eyebrows. He, too, noted they were considerably higher than the raises given the rank-and-file of state workers.

Now, it's hard for us to begrudge anyone a pay raise. We have no indication the PERS brass are doing anything less than a stellar job.

But from what we were told, job performance wasn't necessarily the reason salaries are going up so rapidly.

Instead, we got the old saw about how their salaries are falling behind counterparts in other states, and how some other agency might try to hire away PERS officials if they aren't paid more.

These are lousy reasons for giving pay raises to government workers. Someday, lawmakers will figure out how every time somebody gets a raise, the "average" pay goes up and creates a whole new class of counterparts who now are underpaid.

Anybody dissatisfied with their pay level should feel welcome to take a better-paying job elsewhere. The answer isn't always to boost the pay of the position, especially when it's 20 percent a pop. The best way to increase pay is to tie it to performance, based on quantifiable goals.

Another good reason to keep some consistency: All the state workers who didn't get such a big raise won't wonder why they're being left behind.


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