Monday, February 15, 2010

State pay power struggle rages

The way Civil Service Commission Chairman James Smith sees it, the battle over a state employee pay plan is all about control.

Gov. Bobby Jindal and some lawmakers said they want a new pay raise system that rewards employees based on their on-the-job performance.

In response, the commission developed a plan that tied pay raises for some 60,000 rank-and-file state employees to attainment of specific job ratings. If agencies wanted to differ from that scale, they would need to explain their reasons based on their business plans and get commission approval for variances.

Jindal rejected it outright.

Smith said what Jindal really wants is “control” of the civil service system that has protected state employees from politics for decades.

“We have not had this kind of political interference with the commission in all the years I’ve served on the commission,” said Smith, who has been on the panel more than three decades, most of it as chairman.

“Civil service is supposed to be autonomous and not part of the administration,” he said.

State employee member Burl Cain looks on civil service as state employees’ protector. There are those who want to dismantle civil service and return to a spoils system, Cain said. “We have to fight really hard to stop that,” he said.

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