State employee bonus pay OK'd, but not fundingSD House committee gives lawmakers more time to decide how much to spend.
By: CHET BROKAW, The Daily Republic
PIERRE — A South Dakota House committee on Monday unanimously approved a revised version of Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s plan to give state workers a one-time bonus but set aside only $4 to pay for it, giving lawmakers more time to decide how much to ultimately spend.
Most state employees would get bonuses of at least $2,300 under the plane that was voted out of the Appropriations Committee.
The governor originally proposed that all permanent state employees would get bonuses equal to 5 percent of their annual salaries this year to offset their lost purchasing power when they went three years without a pay raise.
The Senate changed the bill so it still provides a 5 percent bonus, payable in late March, but it sets a floor and ceiling so no full-time employee who has worked for the state for at least three years would get less than $2,300 or more than $7,500.
Those hired before March 24, 2009, would get a full 5 percent payment, while those who have worked for the state more than two years but less than three years would get 3.4 percent.
Meanwhile, those employees who have worked for the state at least a year but less than two years would get 1.7 percent.
The governor’s bill called for spending about $31 million from state, federal and other funds to pay for the bonuses to state employees.
Committee Chairman Dean Wink, R-Howes, said removing all but $4 from the bill gives the House and Senate a chance to make final decisions on the bill, including how much should be spent on the bonuses.
The Legislature will pass a state budget and all other special spending bills by Friday, the end of the main run of this year’s legislative session.
Rep. Tad Perry, R-Fort Pierre, said nearly 70 percent of all state workers would get bonuses of $2,300 because they earn $46,000 or less a year, the point at which 5 percent equals $2,300.
State workers have traditionally got a 3 percent across the board pay raise, with newer employees getting an additional amount to move them toward the midpoint of the salary range of their jobs. Perry said the bonus payments will not offset the employees’ total losses for the three years in which salaries were frozen.
Rep. Jim White, R-Huron, asked how the Legislature could justify the bonus to state workers when 8,000 private sector employees lost their jobs during the recession.
Perry said state government needs to provide the bonuses because state workers are generally paid less than people who hold similar jobs in the private sector.
The bonuses will help state government compete with private businesses for employees, he said.
“We’ve got to make sure we can retain and hire good qualified employees,” Perry said.