Even though the 1991 Legislature
doesn't convene until Monday, the Utah Public Employees Association has already scaled back its request for a 14 percent pay hike.Now, the package UPEA leaders are proposing calls for a boost of up to 10 percent that includes a one-time bonus they prefer to call a "performance reward."
Some pre-session politicking convinced the leaders of Utah's largest state and local employee organization to reduce their request, according to UPEA Executive Director Nancy Sechrest.
Although employees were told they would see as much as a 14 percent pay increase under the proposal UPEA lobbyists were taking to lawmakers, Sechrest said they will understand the decision to ask for less.
"This is highly realistic," she said. "It's still bigger than the governor proposed."
Under the latest UPEA pay plan, employees would get a 3 percent cost-of-living boost. That's the same salary increase Gov. Norm Bangerter put in his budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1.
Bangerter also is asking lawmakers for a 2 percent increase in the amount of money the state contributes toward employee benefits to cover increased retirement and health-care costs.
So when the governor says he is asking for a 5 percent hike for state employees and public schoolteachers, he is referring to the size of their total compensation package, not just salaries.
UPEA's numbers don't include benefits. They do, however, include two other types of pay increases besides the cost-of-living hike, making it even more difficult to compare with the governor's proposal.
This is the first time UPEA has asked for a one-time bonus. Sechrest said lawmakers will be asked to promise to continue the "performance awards" in future years.
The bonus would amount to $735 for the average state employee, who earns $21,000 annually.
Still, Sechrest said, the UPEA is taking a chance by asking lawmakers to fund the 3 1/2 percent bonuses with surplus monies instead of building them into the ongoing budget.
"It's really risky. We could try to get more money in ongoing funds, but we'd be wasting our time," she said. "The risk is that maybe it won't be there next year."
The UPEA is also looking for regular pay increases to be built into the pay structure. Those increases, known as steps, would amount to as much as 31/2 percent depending how close an employees wages are to the next step.
Elected officials, except for Attorney General Paul Van Dam, would get a 4 percent pay increase under the recommendations of the state Executive and Judicial Compensation Commission.
The commission, which reports its recommendations to the Legislature, said Van Dam needs more of an increase to bring his salary closer to what his peers earn.
If lawmakers go along with the recommendations, the governor would see his pay increase from $72,800 to $75,700 while Van Dam's annual earnings would rise from $58,300 to $65,000.
Although the governor did not make any recommendations in his budget about salary increases for elected officials, he did ask for only a 4 percent pay hike for judges, not the 14 percent suggested by the commission.