By Andrew Doughman, Nevada News Bureau: State employees could face further pay increase suspensions as well as cuts to holiday pay under a bill proposed by Gov. Brian Sandoval.
State employees would again face a pay freeze for the time the years they have worked with the state, as well as any potential merit pay. This is in addition to a proposed 5 percent salary cut.
The bill would also make changes to the benefits package for new hires, eliminating a severance provision worth five years of retirement benefits if an employee was laid off because of budget cuts. Instead, the employee would get six months of health benefits.
Representatives from the governor’s office testified that the proposals would put Nevada better in line with neighboring states.
They said new state employees earn a maximum of 104 hours and a minimum of 80 hours per year in paid sick leave among the states neighboring Nevada. In Nevada, new employees earn 120 hours per year in sick leave.
The governor’s proposal would reduce sick time for all employees more toward the Western state average of 98 hours per year.
“If you look at that as the high and low, Nevada was two days beyond the high of any of our neighboring states,” said Julia Teska from the state budget office.
The 5 percent salary reduction saves the state $379.7 million. The suspension of pay increases saves $212 million.
The state does account for paying out employees for accrued vacation and sick leave, so the budget office did not offer a direct savings number.
State employee unions lined up to testify against the bill in a legislative hearing this morning.
“This is another bill that seems to be attacking state employees,” said Vishnu Subramaniam, representing the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
State employees would also earn reduced overtime pay for hours they work on holidays. Changing holiday overtime pay would save an estimated $2.7 million.
Now, all state employees get paid on holidays, and working on a holiday earns an employee pay at 1.5 times the normal hourly rate. Altogether, that means state employees now earn money at 2.5 times the normal rate for working on holidays.
This proposal would lop off 0.5 of that rate so that state employees would earn double time on holidays.
“The proposals that you’re making are not intended as a budget cut per se, but to equalize us with what the market says when you look at the marketplace,” said Randy Kirner, R-Reno.
Public sector union representatives said that the cuts disproportionately affect the working class. They said that the state continues to pay out six-figure salaries to contractors and high-level administrators while balancing the budget with reductions in benefits and pay for the rank and file.
“This is just something of greed,” said Kevin Ranft, also from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
A legislative committee took no immediate action on the bill, but legislators are expected to address the proposal again as part of the governor’s budget.