TRENTON - Senator Republican Budget Committee members Sens. Steven Oroho, Samuel Thompson, Declan O’Scanlon, and Michael Testa said if a preliminary agreement announced by Gov. Phil Murphy with the Communications Workers of America appears to fall far short of the savings that could be generated if the state’s public employee unions were asked to agree to a simple wage freeze.
According to a release, state employees generally receive an approximately 4% salary increase annually on the anniversary date of their hire, known as a “step increase.” Additionally, they receive a 2% salary increase (called a cost of living adjustment, or COLA) once a year. Combined, the step increase and COLA result in typical salary increases of approximately 6% for most unionized State employees.
The governor announced a deal with the public employee union, where the COLA would be suspended, but there was no mention of the 4% step increase.
“Waiting three months into this crisis to look for salary savings has been administrative negligence, as employees who haven’t had to report for work that whole time have still been receiving full pay plus 4% step increases,” stated Oroho (R-24th). “The deal with the CWA fails to acknowledge that these employees will continue to get 4% pay increases, even as the state is faced with a stark fiscal reality. Not accepting the extra 2% COLA doesn’t equate to a sacrifice, it’s simply passing on dessert.”
“Transparency is important in state government, especially in extraordinarily challenging times like this,” stated O’Scanlon (R-13th). “The deal announced today appears to leave out critical information about its impact, including unsustainable 4% raises continuing to be given out, even where agencies have been shut for the past three months.”
Senator Thompson (R-12th) added, “If the deal announced today is giving out 4% salary increases to employees at a time when the state budget is in shambles, the governor should have been upfront about it. Committing to 4% salary increases isn’t appropriate while the governor is threatening to cut Senior Freeze and important relief programs for everyone else impacted by COVID-19.”
Senator Testa (R-1st) stated, “At a time when folks are struggling to keep their businesses, losing their jobs, and suffering enormous hardship, it would be unconscionable to continue giving out 4% pay raises that increase the state budget at greater cost to taxpayers.”