- The Washington Times - Monday, November 29, 2004

RICHMOND (AP) — State government workers want pay increases from a budget surplus that likely will reach $1 billion.

“An across-the-board salary increase of at least 6 percent is needed to help close the growing gap … between the commonwealth and the private sector, and federal and local governments,” says the 18,000-member Virginia Governmental Employees’ Association.

The association, the principal lobbying organization for state employees, says the proposed pay raise for the 100,000-member work force is at the top of its wish list for the General Assembly’s election-year session that begins Jan. 12.

Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, and his gubernatorial challengers suggest using part of the surplus for the cash-strapped road program. House of Delegates candidates also are urging more spending on transportation.

The employee association’s legislative agenda also includes a call to revive a House-Senate commission that monitors public-employee compensation, especially a pay plan from the 1990s that members say is not working.

“The flaws in the state’s compensation plan should be thoroughly examined and corrected,” the association says.

Since 2000, nongovernment salaries in the Richmond area have increased 8.2 percent, with state employees in January receiving their first wage increase in three years, which was 2.25 percent, according to a recent study.

However, the surplus budget does include a 3 percent raise that will show up in paychecks next month and an increase next year of 2 percent for some workers.

The 2005 raise could be revised this winter by the assembly and perhaps extended to most employees.

Teachers have received raises from increased state aid to local school districts, and state troopers and sheriff’s deputies have received salary increases to help curb attrition.

But the employee association says such plans should be available to employees at other agencies in which lower salaries have contributes to high turnover.

The association has called upon the Republican-controlled assembly to adopt a “plan of action … to address the growing problems” of lagging compensation, which the Warner administration says is driving off talented employees.

Association members say salary increases are needed to enhance pensions, in addition to helping employees keep pace with the rising cost of living.

The association also wants better health insurance for retirees and increased mileage allowance for employees who use their personal vehicles on state business.

The rate is 32.5 cents per mile, and the association supports 36.5 cents per mile.

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