State of the State: Gov. Sandoval calls for relief to hard-hit state workers
Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed Nevada budget for the next two fiscal years includes partial restoration of cuts made to state worker pay in the past four years.The plan presented in his proposed 2014-2015 spending plan would cut the number of furlough days required of state workers from six a year to three, effectively a 1.15 percent pay increase.That will cost the state an estimated $22 million from the General Fund over the coming biennium. “We always wanted to do the best for them because they’ve shared in the sacrifice,” Sandoval said after his speech. “I thought it was important to include something in the budget for them.”Director of Administration Jeff Mohlenkamp said the proposed move increases the number of hours state workers will be available to provide services to the public by the same percentage.In his previous budget, for the current two-year budget cycle, the first-term Republican governor originally proposed a 5 percent pay cut for state workers. Lawmakers changed that to a 2.5 percent across-the- board cut and six furlough days a year instead of the 12 they faced in the biennium before that. That was equivalent to a 2.3 percent pay cut for a total of 4.8 percent.In addition, Sandoval’s latest budget proposes reinstating step increases and merit pay taken from state and university system workers in the current biennium. But those would not be reinstated until the second year of the coming biennium, FY 2015. That will cost the state $18 million.The restoration of step and merit pay won’t be retroactive for the past four years. If Sandoval’s plan is endorsed by state lawmakers, It would just be applied moving forward.“It would be cost-prohibitive to try make it up,” said Mohlenkamp.The proposed gains for state workers would be offset by a 2 percent increase in the Public Employee Retirement System premium ordered by the state Public Employees Retirement System executive board. The premium is split 50-50 between the state and the employee.“When you take the PERS hit out, they’ll end up about even,” said Mohlenkamp.The PERS increase is on top of the 2.25 percent increase the system ordered two years ago. In fact, PERS has increased its premium in three of the last four legislative sessions.As Sandoval said earlier, he also intends to restore museums employees to a full 40-hour work week. Those workers were cut to 32 hours in the current budget. The proposed change would cost about $585,000.All the costs are just in General Fund dollars. Since the General Fund is just over a third of the total state budget, the costs are significantly higher when non-General Fund state budgets, Highway Fund and federal costs are calculated.