Mississippi Senators began to tackle the first step to pay raises this year with SB 2001, the teacher pay raise bill. However, Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann has indicated those won’t be the only raises coming out of the Legislature this year.
Hosemann said the raise for teachers, that passed out of the Education Committee last week and now heads to Appropriations, was just the beginning. Other state employees are on the list for consideration before the end of the 2020 Session.
“Our teachers are our start but we have other state employees that are woefully and inadequately under-compensated,” said Hosemann said during a press conference to address the teacher pay raise bill.
Hosemann said he was told over 1,000 state employees working full time are making less than $20,000, a salary, he says, that is simply not economically feasible.
“Second of all, realistically we can’t compete,” Hosemann continued. “We have thousands of open positions in state government. Why is that? We can’t compete with a growing and emerging economy in Mississippi. They can get a better job and I don’t blame them.”
He said it is important that state jobs be competitive with the private sector.
The last time there were pay raises for state employees it was leveled, meaning it was the same across the board, but the Lieutenant Governor said they will be doing it differently this time.
Hosemann indicated that those pay raises would be from the bottom up, something that hasn’t been done in the past. He said his primary goal is to see those jobs become competitive and the average working salary be raised.
Last year, the 2019 Legislature allowed for a three percent raise increase, or a match at what the position would make in the private sector, whichever number was lower. The raise spanned across roughly eighty percent of the 27,000 state workers. The raise came out to be just over $1,000 for workers that qualify. It was not well received by some.
According to an article in the Clarion Ledger, President of the Mississippi Alliance of State Employees, Brenda Scott, said this raise will “equate to a half a tank of gas” for many and was a “slap in the face.” She added that it still amounts to less than the market rate from the private sector.
Engineers with the Mississippi Department of Transportation also saw significant raises last year, some as high as $10,000. At the time, Commissioner Dick Hall said the raises were necessary to keep the organization competitive.
During his campaign for Lt. Governor, Hosemann outlined a similar three percent pay increase for state workers that would ultimately be funded by a one percent savings from administrative and overhead costs across all state agencies. He led by example during his tenure Secretary of State where he was able to cut his budget by $1.5 million from the General Fund last year.
The pressure to ensure significant raises for not only teachers but state employees lingers on for Hosemann and lawmakers.
No pay raise bills concerning state employees have been filed in 2020 as of yet, but the deadline for appropriation legislation is not set until February 20.