S.C. state employees would get a 4 percent pay hike if a Senate Finance Committee proposal approved Thursday becomes law.
State employees still would have to pay 0.5 percent more of their salaries for their pensions, under the Senate Finance Committee’s proposed plan. However, the state would pick up the increased cost of state workers’ health-insurance premiums.
The 4 percent pay increase will have to be worked out with the S.C. House. Last month, the House approved a 2 percent pay hike.
A 4 percent pay hike would be the largest increase for state workers in a decade. State employees did not get any pay increase during four of the past 10 years.
Three Richland County senators — Democrats Darrell Jackson and John Scott and Republican John Courson — were among those pushing for bigger pay hikes for state employees. “State employees have done their part,” said Scott.
Sen. Ray Cleary, R-Georgetown, said the state should focus on retaining good employees, instead of losing them to the private sector.
“It will reinvigorate state employees who have continued to do a good job with less than favorable conditions and circumstances,” said Carlton Washington, executive director of the S.C. State Employees Association.
Senate President Pro Tempore Hugh Leatherman, R-Florence, also advocated for the raise, noting state employees worked nights and weekends during October’s historic rains and flooding.
“We recognize how important our state employees are,” Leatherman said, adding the state wants to make sure it retains those employees.
About 61,000 state employees would be eligible for the pay increase, according to the S.C. Department of Administration. About 21,000 of those employees work in Richland County; another 2,100 work in Lexington County.
Employees paid with “other” funds — including tuition money at state colleges and universities or fees at the Department of Environmental Control — also would be eligible for the raise.
The pay increase would not include teachers, considered local school district employees. However, the panel approved a separate 2 percent pay increase for teachers, in addition to approving a 2 percent boost in the pay that they get based on their experience.
Also, in the Senate Finance budget:
▪ More than $350 million in added money for public schools, including $217.6 million to increase to $2,350 per student the money that goes to schools . Despite the increase, per-student funding remains more than $250 million short of the amount that state law says schools should get.
▪ $315 million for road repairs, including $200 million a year to be bonded through the S.C. Transportation Infrastructure Bank
▪ $37 million for the Transportation Department to make up for road-repairs related to October’s flooding
▪ $240 million for the local government fund, money that goes to cities and counties to perform state services. While up $28 million from last year, that funding is about $70 million less than state law says local governments should get. Still, the added money “goes a long way in restoring the original promise made to the property taxpayers of South Carolina,” said Tim Winslow of the S.C. Association of Counties.
▪ An additional $129 million for the Health and Human Services Department to offset annual expenses that agency has been paying for with savings
▪ $72 million for state and local government’s portion of costs to match federal flood-recovery money from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, including $12 million for road-repairs
▪ $20 million for beach renourishment along the coast
▪ $40 million for grants to farmers whose crops were washed away during October’s flooding
▪ $17 million more for the Department of Commerce’s deal-closing fund, used to entice companies to locate in the state
▪ $5 million more for repairs to National Guard armories
▪ $2.4 million for body cameras for police officers
Pay hikes for S.C. workers?
State employees did not get any pay increases during four of the past 10 years. A look at the pay hikes they did get, year by year:
2015-16: $800 one-time bonus for those making make less than $100,000
2014-15: 2 percent
2013-14: 0 percent
2012-13: 3 percent
2011-12: 0 percent
2010-11: 0 percent
2009-10: 0 percent
2008-09: 1 percent
2007-08: 3 percent
2006-07: 3 percent