One of the proudest moments of my life was this past January, when I swore an oath and became Nevada’s Secretary of State. Once I assumed office, however, one large problem became very clear: Nevada’s state agencies have a gaping wound, and it all starts with employee pay.
The ability for the state of Nevada to adequately serve the people is only possible because of our incredibly hard-working staff. Like many other agencies, the Secretary of State’s Office is critically understaffed. Even though our office is one of the highest generators to the state General Fund, we still can’t pay our employees the wages they deserve.
Nevada is staring down one of the highest General Fund balances in history. State employees have worked hard to make that happen — and it’s time the state pays them back.
Since taking office, I’ve met with our frontline staff — they answer the phone calls from Nevadans in need of assistance every day, process a massive amount of mail the office receives, help business owners work through our system and more duties on top of that to support our divisions. They keep the state’s economy moving under circumstances that are far from easy.
State governments get criticized, and rightly so, for systems that are out of date, long wait times and a lack of transparency — but none of this is because of our state workers. Our employees work tirelessly and with immense integrity to serve and help provide critical services and information for Nevadans. But when you put so much work on a small staff, the system is bound to break down. We have a technology deficit in state government, compounding the issues facing our state employees. This needs to change – not only for the wellbeing and livelihoods of our state employees, but for ALL Nevadans who deserve a state government that is accessible, transparent and works for them.
One of the biggest barriers to building the workforce Nevada’s agencies need? The inability to hire and retain both entry-level and experienced employees. Compared to wages at county and city offices across the state, as well as the private sector, it has become harder and harder to keep employees and hire employees at a competitive salary. With a booming economy, when Nevadans can work entry level jobs at $19 per hour, the state just can’t compete. At least, not with our current pay scale.
We need to remember that our offices only work because of the people in them. We can’t bring our state offices into the modern age technologically or implement strategic plans to better serve Nevadans without fair and competitive wages for state employees.
The pay step increase that Gov. Joe Lombardo has requested for state employees would be a vital first step for us to improve morale, recruit new staff and improve efficiency so that we can bring in more revenue to the state. This pay step would increase employee pay raises 8% in year one and 4% in year two and it is an absolute necessity.
I testified in front of the Nevada Legislature and asked our legislature to go even further — if it’s at all possible, to find any way to increase state pay even beyond what the governor has requested. The staff of our office and offices across the state deserve it.
Our employees show up every day and work hard — they do it because they believe in helping our state and helping their neighbors. They oversee some of the country’s most secure elections, help small business owners register for a license for the first time, find justice for Nevadans who have fallen victim to fraud, and maintain important licensing processes. I'm so proud of all the workers in the Secretary of State’s Office and how tirelessly they work every day. I can’t thank them enough — and I will continue to advocate for them and fight for the better wages they deserve.
Cisco Aguilar is Nevada’s Secretary of State.
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