State employees won't get the kind of raise lawmakers promised them unless officials can devise a way to find the money, aides in Gov. Norm Bangerter's office said Friday.
The governor's office, frustrated because state employees are getting wind of the problem and are blaming Bangerter, said lawmakers are responsible for the shortfall. The governor's office wanted the raises to be funded from more secure sources in the first place, aides said.However, they want state employees to rest easy.
"We're dedicated to finding a way to get the money," said Bud Scruggs, Bangerter's chief of staff.
But lawmakers said Friday that they were just trying to follow recommendations from Bangerter's office and they are not in the mood for a special legislative session to restructure the raises.
In the session that ended last month, the Legislature granted each state employee a 2 percent cost-of-living raise and provided money for an additional percent merit increase for a few deserving employees.
They also gave each state agency permission to grant an additional 1.5 percent merit raise, and they transferred $2.4 million from a long-term disability fund to cover part of that cost. They urged state agencies to find the rest through frugal management.
But Dale Hatch, state budget director, said Friday the state can take only $1.5 million at most from the disability fund. State employees, however, would be eligible for only about 60 percent of that money because of complicated rules, he said. At most, the money would fund an additional 0.4 percent merit raise.
Hatch also said lawmakers did not fund the full 2 percent cost-of-living and 1 percent merit raises as they claimed. They funded a 3 percent merit raise, which requires less money because it is expected to be given only to deserving employees.
"In my department, for instance, there would only be enough for a 2.5 percent raise," Hatch said.
The shortfall does not affect raises for public and higher education workers nor does it affect raises granted to the governor, judges and other elected officials. The Legislature funded those increases separately.
Hatch said he is working on a plan to rearrange funding for the raises. He declined to reveal the plan, saying he will make it public only if Bangerter accepts it.
"I think we've found a way to do it without having a special session," he said. "There are some excesses in funds this year. I think there is a way to find enough."
Sen. Lyle Hillyard, R-Logan, said lawmakers were just trying to follow recommendations from the governor's office when they funded the raises. The governor's staff waited until the last minute to say there might be problems, he said.
The governor's staff "came back the last night of the session and said there wasn't enough money in the (disability) fund," said Hillyard, co-chairman of the Executive Appropriations Committee, which writes the budget. "I wasn't about to take the money out of other funds. The minute I did that, we would have public education and higher education folks coming to us saying we had given something extra to state employees."
Hatch said he gave legislators several viable options for funding the raises other than taking money from the disability fund. Lawmakers rejected the proposals.
Lawmakers left $19 million unspent this year when they rejected Bangerter's recommendation to cut income taxes.
Hatch said his plan does not include spending that money, which the governor hopes still can be used to fund a future tax cut.