The Delaware State News reports that Delaware’s Compensation Commission will recommend an average of a 2% raise for the State’s senior executives (elected and appointed), judiciary, and legislature. The Compensation Commission has not yet finalized these numbers, but it seems reasonable to look at this as the direction they are taking. Keep in mind that these raises go into effect July 2017 unless the GA specifically rejects this report.
The commission’s report has not yet been finalized. But the commission, which consists of six members, said Wednesday it will likely suggest a 2 percent raise for all elected officials aside from the governor. For lawmakers who have a base salary of $45,291 that’s an extra $906 a year.
Legislators also have an expense account of $7,334, and about half of them receive extra pay for being in a leadership role or serving on one of the three main committees. The pay for that varies from $19,893 for the House speaker and Senate president pro tempore to $3,852 for members of the Joint Sunset Committee.
The expense account would remain the same, while leadership and committee pay would see an increase of between $3,205 and $770, depending on the role.
Last budget season, legislators approved a 1.5% raise for state workers — who have seen very few raises during the Markell Administration era. They also approved a reduction in benefits plus an increase in the amounts workers pay for health care.
It is not unreasonable for people who are doing good work and adding to the productivity (and economic attractiveness) of the State to be rewarded for that. Except during the economic recovery, state workers were expected to partially finance part of the deficit recovery and some of those state workers were already underpaid for the jobs they have.
Getting and keeping good talent is a challenge all over. It is easier when you can pay people really well. Paying people well also lets you compete for better talent. But retaining people is something of an artform these days, especially when money is not always the first resource available. Government talent is more difficult. Government service is pretty well devalued, and the old formula of good (but less than private sector) pay plus an iron clad commitment to a solid pension is pretty much over. So how do you compete for good talent?
I’m not sure that I know that the answer to that is, especially in a State where asking for a more fair tax burden is clearly off of the table. You still have to invest in and pay for the government that you want. I don’t object to the small pay increase proposed here, but I do object to a process appears to take much more seriously the pay scale of its leadership than of its workers. Because a leadership position in government is definitely a different thing than being one of its teachers. At that level, it is easier to leverage other private sector employment, other government employment, board appointments and so on with people who can take advantage of your skills and network. It is still vital to pay these folks their value to the State, but it is vital to accurately recognize and pay the value of everyone else who works for the State as well.
What to do? There is no easy fix here. The Judiciary needs to be paid well, but so do our teachers and without all of the demonizing bullshit they have to live with. Still, given the last DEFAC report, it seems that we are heading into a pretty big revenue shortfall this budget season, which means that if there is austerity, it needs to be shared. I would recommend that the GA reject these pay increases, but I would also have them change the rules this Commission has to live with — tying any recommended increase to senior-level pay to the total increases that State workers received in the last 4 years. So that if State workers got 1.5% in raises in the past 4 years (I think that the actual number is higher, I am not sure) then the maximum that the quadrennial review of senior pay could propose would be 1.5%. (I would also eliminate the pay bump for legislators with “leadership” positions. Why isn’t that part of the job?) Everyone gets raises, everyone is tied to austerity when that is the strategy and maybe provides some incentive to lawmakers to fairer pay for State workers.
What do you think?