Monday, October 26, 2009

Pay, retirement stir emotions

The Lake Charles American Press in this opinion piece chimes in on the current debate about state employee pay and their retirement plan.

Start messing around with a state employee’s pay or his retirement and you are guaranteed a full-blown controversy. So you can imagine what uproar has been created with both issues now on the griddle at the same time.

The state Civil Service Commission could as early as Nov. 4 make a final decision on a new pay raise plan for state workers. It is designed to replace what have become almost automatic 4 percent annual pay increases.

The new system would allow agencies to give employees anywhere from zero to 3 ercent increases if they satisfy their job requirements. Workers doing better than expected could get up to 6 percent raises.

Opponents of the new system insist supervisors aren’t trained to make unbiased evaluations. They believe nepotism and friendships will result in too much favoritism.

Joint meetings of the House and Senate retirement committees at the same time are beginning discussions on possibly changing the way state retirements are funded and handled.

The retirement debate pits the current employee defined-benefit plan vs. a defined-contribution plan. The four largest retirement plans are those that cover State Police, state employees, teachers and school employees.

If the retirement systems were changed, it wouldn’t affect anyone currently working for the state or who is already retired. Only new employees or teachers hired after July 1, 2010, would be affected.

State Sen. Butch Gautreaux, D-Morgan City, chairman of the Senate Retirement Committee, made perhaps the best argument against going to a contribution retirement plan. He talked about the national recession that is still being felt in many parts of the country.

Rep. Joel Robideaux, No Party-Lafayette, is chairman of the House Retirement Committee. He doesn’t think any retirement change is imminent.

A change in the merit pay plan for state workers is a different story. It should have been improved a long time ago, but no one had the courage to take the bold steps that are necessary.

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