Louisiana Senate workers getting 8% pay raise, costing $625K

Politics

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards(D-LA) speaks as he meets with US President Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC on April 29, 2020. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Employees in the Louisiana Senate will get an 8% pay raise starting this month, a move Senate President Page Cortez described Friday as a “little bit of a makeup” because he said the workers have gone more than two years without salary hikes.

The Senate Executive Committee, which reviews personnel and facility issues, recommended the salary increases Friday after discussing them privately in executive session. Cortez said they’ll begin with the next pay period and estimated they’ll cost about $625,000 a year.

“It’s long overdue and it’s well-deserved,” said Sen. Fred Mills, a Republican from St. Martin Parish who is on the executive committee and announced the pay raise plan.

After the meeting, Cortez said nearly every Senate worker will receive the salary hike “with the exception of a handful of special cases.” The Lafayette Republican said the Senate will be able to cover the costs of the raise in its existing budget because the staff has dropped from 111 workers at the end of 2019, shortly before Cortez was elected president, to just above 90 employees currently.

“We’ve tried to be more efficient,” Cortez said. “We’ve asked less people to do more work.”

The raises come as Cortez said he’s looking at further ways to reorganize the chamber’s staff. He said the state’s economy is “doing better,” state revenue collections are increasing and the Senate hasn’t given pay raises in about two and a half years, while the House has increased salaries.

Pay raises have been doled out across state government in recent years, including during the coronavirus pandemic.

House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, a Gonzales Republican, said in a statement that he approved raises for House staff averaging 3% to 4% during the last budget year “based on recommendations from employee supervisors after performance evaluations conducted for each employee.” No raises have been handed out in the current budget year that began July 1, he said.

Gov. John Bel Edwards gave pay raises in 2020 to his staff, most cabinet secretaries, and other political appointees. The Edwards administration said most of those salary increases were 4%. No similar raises to the Democratic governor’s staff have been handed out this budget year, according to the governor’s office.

Meanwhile, rank-and-file workers across state government have received pay raises annually, under a 2017 pay scale redesign enacted by Edwards for employees overseen by state civil service rules who aren’t political appointees.

Supporters of those rank-and-file pay raises — the first adjustment to the pay scales in a decade — said they were aimed at improving worker retention at certain agencies and stopping the hefty training and other costs associated with high turnover.

Republican senators criticized those salary hikes last year, saying they were inappropriate in the middle of the pandemic when private businesses were struggling. But they were unable to block them because Edwards refused to agree to the effort.

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Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte.

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