State employees deserve overdue raise

Published 5:52 pm Wednesday, March 22, 2017

By Craig Ford
Ford represents Gadsden and Etowah County in the Alabama House of Representatives.

State legislatures and the U.S. Congress typically have the lowest approval ratings of any government branch or agency, and last week the Alabama Legislature showed exactly why that is.

The same state legislators who made their own pay raises part of the state constitution, and are subsequently receiving more than a $2,000 pay raise this year for their part-time job, have decided our state employees aren’t deserving of a pay increase this year.

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It isn’t a question of money. The budget passed by the House of Representatives is holding back $97 million “for future needs and uncertainties,” while the cost of a 4 percent pay increase would only be one-fifth of that (about $19 million).

Never mind that state employees have seen their health insurance premiums and other daily expenses increase but haven’t received a cost-of-living pay raise since 2008. State retirees have also been left out of any pay raises — including merit raises — and have also seen their healthcare premiums go up.

But instead of giving our state troopers, court employees, first responders and other public employees a long-overdue pay raise that they’ve more than earned, legislators have chosen politics over people.

It’s been nearly 10 years since state employees and retirees last saw a cost-of-living pay increase. Since that time, the cost of a gallon of milk has gone from $2.65 to $3.98, the cost of Tide detergent has more than doubled and the cost of a pound of ground chuck has jumped up 26 percent!

While the cost-of-living has gone up, state employees paychecks have actually gone down because, in addition to seeing their health insurance premiums increase, the legislature voted to increase state employees’ contributions to their health insurance.

On top of all this, the Legislature’s budget cuts have meant that retiring employees are not being replaced. That means a lot of state employees are now having to do two or even three people’s jobs.

We are asking state employees to do more for less money and with fewer resources, and that, in turn, is impacting public safety.

We need another 200 state troopers at a minimum to patrol our highways and keep them safe.

The shortage of troopers is one of the reasons Alabama’s highway fatality rate is twice the national average.

The lack of mental health care professionals is keeping us from preventing violent crimes, and also contributing to our recidivism rate (i.e., people going back to prison after serving their initial sentence). This is a major reason for our prison overcrowding problems.  These are hard-working people who pay their taxes, shop in our local businesses and provide a critical service to our state. They haven’t received a pay raise in nearly 10 years, and the fact that they aren’t getting one this year when we clearly have the money is an outrage and an injustice!