Posts Tagged ‘public sector’

Legislature Votes To Cut Pay To State And University Workers

By Andrew Doughman | 3:54 pm May 10th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Legislators on money committees today approved on a party-line vote a 4.8 percent salary cut to state and higher education employees.

The proposal would include a 2.3 percent cut through furloughs – about six days per year – and a 2.5 percent salary reduction.

Gov. Brian Sandoval had proposed in his budget a 5 percent salary cut to state and higher education workers.

Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, advanced the 4.8 percent “compromise” cut. Legislative staff said it would create a shortfall between $7.5 and $10 million in the governor’s budget.

The vote passed with all Democrats voting for the idea and all Republicans voting against it. In an earlier vote, Republicans voted to follow the governor’s recommendation while Democrats voted against it.

Republicans characterized the salary reductions and cuts to benefits as similar to reductions in the private sector.

“What we are seeing here is a continuation of that downsizing,” said Assemblyman Pat Hickey, R-Reno.

Democrats contended that government does not operate like private businesses; rather than seeing less business during a recession, more people depend on state services in a recession.

“If we are going to apply true business principles to government, we should be hiring right now … our demand is way up,” said Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas.

Union representatives and higher education faculty testified against the cuts, saying that they much preferred furloughs to salary cuts.

Danny Thompson of the AFL-CIO also said that reductions in the governor’s budget have provoked a grassroots movement that could punish Republicans during next year’s elections.

“I would caution you that if you don’t solve this problem, that organic uprising that has already happened is going to spread and the people are going to solve this problem,” Thompson said.

Legislators also voted to continue suspending merit and longevity pay as well as eliminating holiday premium pay for higher education and state workers. Legislative staff said that these decisions should save the state $71.5 million.

Yesterday, legislators voted to curtail health care benefits for public sector employees.

Public sector employee union representatives said they have already endured these reductions in pay and benefits for several years as Nevada has struggled through the recession.

“It is so totally unfair what we are doing to our state government,” said Jan Gilbert of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.

The governor has earlier argued that furlough days resulted in less productivity from employees, causing longer lines at places such as the DMV.

None of the votes are binding, and the Legislature may decide to alter the proposals as they finalize the budget.

Legislative committees last week voted not to reduce pay for school district employees nor did they choose to suspend merit pay for school district employees.

Those decisions could cost the state $402 million during the next two years.

Democrats last week proposed a revenue package totaling about $1.2 billion comprising a continuation of taxes approved by the 2009 Legislature and scheduled to end this year as well as a tax on businesses’ gross revenue and a sales tax on some services.

If passed, these tax increases could pay for that $402 million cost.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, also noted a potential budget consequence in cutting salaries. He said that the sustained compensation cuts could lead some state workers to favor retirement over working for less.

Dana Bilyeu of the Public Employees’ Retirement System estimated that 2,000 current state employees are eligible to collect full retirement benefits.

Should they choose to retire, the state would have an unfunded obligation to cash out those retiring employees for accrued sick leave, she said.

Bilyeu and others in the committee room could not estimate a cost, but she said about 1,000 more teachers than usual retired due to changes in benefits following the 2007 legislative session, causing the state to lose millions of dollars.




Union Group Finds Support For Public Workers In Poll

By Andrew Doughman | 12:08 pm March 30th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A poll released today shows that most Nevadans hold government workers in high regard.

Nevadans for Nevada, a collective of largely public sector unions, hired Grove Insight to conduct the poll of 500 registered voters.

The poll, which was conducted last week, comes as the salaries, benefits and contracts of unions and public sector workers are increasingly in the public spotlight.

Nick Di Archangel, spokesman for the Service Employees International Union, said that public workers needed to gauge public opinion in lieu of high-profile legislative battles like the one still unfolding in Wisconsin.

“I’ve worked in news for 20 years,” Di Archangel said. “I’ve never seen labor covered like this. … With so much scrutiny on labor unions, it was crucial to find out where people fell.”

Nevada’s Legislature is considering several budget proposals that would reduce salaries for public employees. Legislators may also change how public employees bargain for contracts as well as what they pay into retirement and benefit plans.

Di Archangel said the poll shows that most Nevadans hold favorable views of public employees.

The pollsters for Grove Insight worded the question this way:

“Please tell me overall, do you have a very favorable, somewhat favorable, neutral, somewhat unfavorable or very unfavorable impressions of public employees?”

Among the 500 voters who answered, 61 percent held favorable views of public employees, 22 had a neutral opinion, 11 percent had an unfavorable view and 6 percent had no opinion.

In a press release from Nevadans for Nevada, the union group also highlighted that their poll supports raising taxes.

The question on the poll read:

“Right now, Nevada is facing a ONE-POINT FIVE billion dollar budget shortfall. Governor Brian Sandoval has refused to consider any compromise that includes raising some taxes – even if that means deep cuts to local schools. Do you approve or disapprove of Governor Sandoval’s position?”

While 12 percent remained neutral, 31 percent approved of the governor’s position while 57 percent disapproved.

The union poll follows recent polls from the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce and the Retail Association of Nevada.

Read the union poll here.