Friday, June 10, 2011

Senate Approves Republican Caucus Plan to Control State Personnel Costs

The Massachusetts Senate is calling on Governor Patrick and his successors to develop a biennial plan to maximize personnel efficiencies and control the state’s rising personnel costs.

The Republican-sponsored proposal was approved on a unanimous vote of 37-0 as part of a comprehensive finance reform bill that passed the Senate yesterday. The Senate’s actions came only hours after media reports that the Patrick Administration has authorized 3 percent pay raises for managers in executive branch departments and agencies for the coming fiscal year.

“We recently completed floor debate on what is arguably one of the most difficult budgets the Senate has been faced with in many years, and the news of sweeping pay increases is surprising as the conference committee is struggling to meet existing demands and balance that budget,” said Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester). “It is challenging to understand how these increases fit into the context of proposed budgets that are cutting programs and services for some of our state’s most vulnerable residents.”

According to the State House News Service, the 4,000 executive branch managers set to receive the raises have not seen any wage increases since 2007 and took unpaid furloughs in fiscal years 2009 and 2010. The 3 percent pay raises could cost the state as much as $10 million.

Under the amendment adopted by the Senate yesterday, the Governor must file his initial report on personnel costs with the House and Senate Ways and Means Committees within nine months of the passage of the state finance reform bill, with future reports filed every two years.

“Personnel costs are usually one of the largest elements of any budget, and they are certainly a major factor in state government,” Senator Tarr said. “The plan required in this amendment is a proactive way to confront these costs and to seek ways to keep them from destabilizing other priorities and the state budget itself.”

The finance reform bill now heads to the House of Representatives for further action.