Although the 3 percent pay increase proposed for state workers by Gov. Norm Bangerter is less than half of what it wants, the Utah Public Employees Association is nonetheless pleased.
"It would have been nice if he would have gone in with 8 percent, but that's a little unrealistic, and we respect that," said Nancy Sechrest, government affairs manager for the 9,000-member UPEA.The governor announced he is seeking a 3 percent pay increase for state workers when he unveiled his proposed budget to lawmakers this week. The budget also includes an as-yet-unspecified $19 million tax cut.
Including any pay increase for state workers in his budget is a "vote of confidence" for state workers from the governor, Sechrest said, adding that the proposal will make it easier for UPEA to sell what they want to the Legislature.
Prior to a 2.5 percent pay increase in 1988, the state's 12,800 employees had not had their pay boosted since 1985, except for a one-time, 1 percent bonus in 1986.
"Since 1983, state employees have pretty much taken what's been left over," Sechrest said. "Suddenly we had to pump the lake, suddenly we had to send money back . . . state employees have been very patient."
Back in the days when state workers enjoyed a series of pay increases that Sechrest termed "pretty high," they "got a little bit spoiled and a little bit comfortable," she said.
Sechrest said UPEA's 8 percent request is based on the increase in the national consumer price index since 1982. The 8 percent increase would cost the state $16 million, compared to the $6 million increase proposed by Bangerter.
The UPEA has not indicated where the money for their pay increase should come from, although Sechrest said it would not necessarily have to be taken out of the money the governor hopes will be used for a tax cut.
She met with the governor the day before he made his budget proposals public during an address to lawmakers and got an interesting reaction to UPEA's requested pay increase.
"When I talked to him, I said, `You won't be mad if we get 8 percent will you?' He just laughed," she said.