State pay and benefit cuts reviewed

Lawmakers and employee advocates objected Wednesday to the extensive pay and benefit reductions in Gov. Brian Sandoval's proposed budget saying they will damage the state's ability to hire and keep good workers.

Director of Administration Andrew Clinger outlined the changes in compensation and benefits in detail, saying the 5 percent pay cut for state workers saves the general fund $379.7 million and the salary freeze by suspending step increases another $204.9 million over the biennium.

He went through a laundry list of other changes as well.

But Personnel Director Teresa Thienhaus told the Assembly Ways and Means Committee compensation isn't the top reason people stay with an employer, that benefits and job security are powerful attractions

"Compensation comes out lower than job security," she said.

That prompted a sharp response from Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas.

"I have a thousand

e-mails from people concerned with their job," he said "I think we should ask Nevada State Prison workers if they're concerned about their jobs."

"This sends the message that when times were good, we didn't give you much but now that times are bad, we're going to balance it on your backs," said Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas.

Other changes include suspending longevity pay, reducing holiday premium pay from two-times regular pay to double time, making changes to shift differential for those who work nights, and eliminating the rural area differential for new hires all add to the state's savings.

The plan also includes major changes to employee health benefits.

"One of the ways we retain our employees is a strong benefits program rather than compensation," said Ways and Means chairwoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks.

Changes in the retirement benefit include creating a new plan for all public employees hired after Jan. 1, 2012, that combined a defined benefit pension with a 401K type plan that caps the state's contribution for both regular and public safety employees.

Clinger emphasized that many of the health benefit changes and all of the retirement benefit reductions apply only to future employees, not current state workers.

"How is this shared sacrifice?" asked Craig Stevens of the Nevada State Education Association. "The governor is balancing the budget on the backs of educators."

Ron Bratsch, representing correctional officers in the prison system, said that department is disproportionately impacted by the plan since most agencies don't have 24/7 operations. And he said the plan to close Nevada State Prison, which would eliminate nearly 100 positions, directly affects job security.

Jim Richardson, representing the Nevada Faculty Alliance, said several hundred staff within the university system have been notified that they will lose jobs if the governor's budget is adopted.

He also said since the system stands to lose some of the best professors if pay and benefits are reduced, "this may be penny wise and pound foolish."

The committee took no action on the proposals.


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