Cutting state pay would devastate local economy |

Cutting state pay would devastate local economy

Linda Hoxsie
Special to the Nevada Appeal

I am a state employee. As such, I risk being accused in the blogosphere of being a “spoiled … whiny … pampered …overpaid do-nothing.”

Some people who benefit directly or indirectly from the efforts of state employees and the services they provide hate us with a venom that is incomprehensible to me.

Many of us arrive early, stay late, work through lunches and break times, and no, we are not compensated for doing so. We do this for a number of reasons, mostly because, like the mountain, it ” the work ” is there. We care about what we do and the people we serve.

I object to uninformed, ill-conceived, mean-spirited remarks aimed at all state employees without regard to the fairness or truthfulness of those remarks.

We raise families, pay taxes and purchase goods and services in the communities in which we live. I know many state employees who contribute to charities privately or through fundraising activities. We “adopt” families, victims of domestic violence and children in foster care.

To portray all state employees in some of the terms I’ve seen lately does a huge disservice to these folks. The overwhelming majority of us truly desire to serve and do so proudly and willingly.

Collectively we “get” there will be no cost-of-living raises over the next biennium. We “get” that we will be expected to pay more for insurance premiums, pay higher deductibles, higher out-of-pocket expenses and receive fewer benefits. But please know, we too are dealing with the economic issues now being experienced in the state and country.

Like everyone, our homes are not worth what is owed on them and our deferred compensation accounts (to which there is no matching state contribution) are in the tank. Hundreds of state positions have been frozen for the past two years, which means we do more with less. We pay the same for gas, groceries, utilities and other goods and services as everyone else.

We are at risk of a 6 percent cut in base salaries, loss of merit increases and the reduction by 50 percent (or total elimination) of insurance subsidies for retirees. We may be required to pay more in retirement contributions, while receiving fewer service credits for years worked. These proposals are untenable.

The combination of all these proposals amounts to approximately 15 percent to 20 percent or more of a pay cut for most state employees.

I was told in 1988 that after years of service with the state I would receive a subsidy toward insurance premiums upon my retirement. I am now of an age where it is not possible for a “do-over” to make other arrangements. With over 20 years of service, my retirement benefit will be in the area of 50 percent of my current gross pay, before taxes. If I have to pay approximately 25 percent of my retirement check for health insurance premiums it would have devastating financial consequences.

What is the trickle-down effect of this? The proposed cuts to active employee and retiree incomes will most surely be felt by every segment of the community.

Purchases of certain goods and services will dwindle or disappear. The domino effect could be felt by car dealers, restaurant owners, grocery store employees; small boutique owners, Wal-Mart or Costco and the people they employ.

If charity begins at home, that’s where potential charitable contributions will be staying, out of necessity, not because it’s our nature or desire to do so.

For the future of this state and the vast array of services provided by its employees to all levels of society, I would ask the Legislature to carefully consider the decisions made in the upcoming session. The potentially withering impact on service delivery and local economies could ultimately prolong and deepen an already dismal economic forecast.

And by the way, I’m typing this on my own time, on my own computer, in my own (for the time being) home.

– Linda Hoxsie has worked for the state of Nevada for more than 20 years.