ST. PAUL — Some Minnesota state workers who have been stuck under a salary cap for 15 years may finally be in line for raises.
Many of the state’s top jobs have been subject to a cap based on the governor’s pay, which has been locked at $120,303 since 1998. The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported on Tuesday that many could get raises because of the Legislature’s vote this year to increase salaries for the governor and agency commissioners.
Prior to the law change, state commissioners could only earn apercentage of the governor’s salary, meaning their salaries in most cases topped out at about $110,000. And all but a few exempt employees were not able to earn more than the head of the agency where they work.
State union leaders and some state executives said that made it increasingly hard to compete for top talent with both the private sector and even other levels of government, particularly after a 2005 law change that let Minnesota cities and counties pay considerably higher salaries for some positions.
“This is about more than just getting raises,” said Richard Kolodziejski, public affairs manager for the Minnesota Association of Professional Employees. “This is about paying people at their market value — something long overdue.”
Mary Tingerthal, the commissioner of the Minnesota Housing and Finance Agency, said she’s had trouble filling important jobs because she can’t match salaries offered by banks. She said the agency has had to hire employees fresh out of college, who have typically moved on after a few years to better-paid private positions. Recently, she said, a number of top candidates turned down offers to replace the agency’s retiring chief financial officer.
Sue Mulvihill,a deputy transportation commissioner, said her agency has struggled to find engineers. Even county transportation departments have been able to offer as much as an additional $50,000a year for top prospects, Mulvihill said.
Last spring, the Legislature voted to increase the governor’s salary to $128,000. They also changed the cap, so that agency heads can earn up to 133 percent of the governor’s salary. Other top-tier employees will be able to make up to 120 percent of the governor’s salary, or $153,600.
Minnesota Management and Budget has hired a private firm to determine which state positions have salaries that fall short of peers in the private sector, in local governments or neighboring state governments. Once that’s completed in 2014, each state agency will be tasked with figuring out how to pay recommended raises out of their budgets.
But state Rep. Bob Dettmer, R-Forest Lake, questioned if it would be a good time for a flood of salary hikes for employees who are already some of the state’s best-paid.
“Look at families in the private sector who haven’t seen a raise in 10 years, or have lost their jobs or are working multiple jobs,” Dettmer said. “We could have waited on those increases.”Duluth News Tribune, Wednesday, December 25, 2013