LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Are Nevada employees satisfied with the state’s efforts to “catch up” on missed pay increases? If Rick McCann’s opinion is any indication, it’s a resounding “yes.”
McCann, retired executive director of the Nevada Association of Public Safety Officers, made a short comment Thursday in Carson City at the conclusion of a three-hour meeting at the Legislature.
“At the risk of being inappropriate, which has never stopped me in the past …” Then he stood and applauded lawmakers on the money committees. Many others in attendance joined him in the gesture.
The complex tasks of carving out big cost-of-living (COLA) raises and setting up bonuses to attract new employees and keep current staff have been a priority for lawmakers this session. Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno (D-Las Vegas) chaired the joint meeting of the Assembly Committee on Ways and Means and the Senate Committee on Finance. She said she felt a responsibility to do what’s right for “our employees.”
Gross pay will increase 18-31% over the next two years, according to Monroe-Moreno, but that’s contingent on everything being approved in the Legislature. Democrats hold the majority in both the Assembly and the Senate.
When Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo released his proposed budget in January, he was seeking $2,000 annual bonuses for state employees in the executive branch — administrators and workers at state offices.
But lawmakers appear to be ready to modify that approach, extending a smaller bonus — $1,000 each year, with $250 payments every quarter for the next two years — while including all employees in the legislative and judicial branches.
That approach would also put more money toward paying a larger share of employee retirement benefits through the PERS program — in effect, increasing base pay across the board.
Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager made comments supporting that approach after lawmakers took a 45-minute recess that followed presentations of the options that were available.
The biggest bumps in pay will come from COLAs. Those adjustments would bring:
- 2% increase effective April 1, 2023
- 8-10% increases beginning July 1, 2023
- 4% increase beginning July 1, 2024
Longevity pay is also included in the proposals that are on the table. And consideration for positions in the Nevada System of Higher Education also received attention, with a $3.5 million expenditure specifically included.
Lawmakers sought assurance that the money to provide these raises will be there when it’s time to send the paychecks. Republican Senator Heidi Seevers Gansert asked if the raises were calculated for only current employees, or if the money would be set aside for full employment levels. About one of every five government jobs is currently vacant.
Fiscal analysts Sarah Coffman and Wayne Thorley said the money for every job — filled or vacant — would be set aside.
Documents included in the presentation gave a glimpse at how pay increases might affect the take-home pay of several positions. The examples included:
- an administrative assistant with $45,601 annual base pay. Current take-home pay of $30,049 would increase to $40,373 over the next two years — 34.4%
- a prison sergeant with $84,229 annual base pay. Current take-home pay of $52,720 would increase to $68,624 over the next two years — 30.2%
- an IT professional with $101,164 annual base pay. Current take-home pay of $71,443 would increase to $92,958 over the next two years — 29.6%
Before McCann stood and clapped at the end of the hearing, several other speakers said an additional goal should be to restore medical benefits to retirees. That was stripped away in 2012 as concerns about the health of the retirement trust account came into question at the end of the Great Recession, which started in 2008.
Coverage for long-term disabilities for retired workers was also mentioned.
But for now, lawmakers are focusing on building salaries that are viewed as noncompetitive against the private sector — and even other government jobs offered by cities. State employees that were forced to take furloughs during the pandemic are on lawmakers’ minds.
A table shows the latest costs associated with all the COLA raises and other salary adjustments:
Fiscal analysts said Lombardo’s budget request actually overestimated the costs of providing bonuses and raises because it “double-counted” fringe benefits and pulled all the costs from the general fund when many salaries come from other sources.
Thorley said the Legislature still has work to do to fund proposals that are on the table. An additional $40.1 million from the general fund is only part of the concern. The adjustments will also require $125 million from the highway fund and $240 million from other sources.