MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WIAT) — The number of days since the vast majority of Alabama state employees got a cost of living raise: 2,956.
Many are going home with less than when they started working for the state.
As our CBS 42 News Investigation ‘Follow the Money’ reveals, while some employees are struggling, others are prospering.
The majority of the state’s approximately 30,000 employees are on the merit system. That’s a system supposed to take the politics out of hiring, firing and raises. There’s a set pay scale for a position and once you hit the top, that’s it–no more raises. But, working in the state house, a lot of the positions are non-merit, so lawmakers set the staffers’ salaries.
Using public records, CBS 42 News went employee by employee working behind the scenes at the state house: the secretaries, the clerks, the staff of lawmakers. Putting each of their salaries back to back, what our investigation found is some employees are getting big raises.
Behind the scenes in the House of Representatives, most employees got, on average, a two to three percent pay raise over the past three years. But, we found numerous employees at the state house who got big raises.
An executive assistant in the house: 20 percent raise, an assistant to the clerk: 32 percent raise. And most glaring of all, is the senate’s staff. Last year, every one of the nine behind the scenes staffers under the senate’s personnel budget got at least a 62 up to 100 percent raise. And remember, a large portion of state employees have gotten nothing.
“My people are at will. They don’t get the benefits, they aren’t under the retirement system,” said Del Marsh, Senate President Pro Tem. “I look across the industry at what they are being paid and I try to mirror that. No one has called me and said it’s unfair that your employees are making ‘x’ and we haven’t gotten a pay raise.”
Marsh went on to elaborate on other cost cutting measures the senate uses to balance the budget.
“I’d love to be able to give state employees a pay raise. I’d love to. We just have to see where we are with the budget. And we’ve got to make some hard decisions,” Marsh said. “On Medicaid, we are controlled a lot by the federal government, telling us who can and can’t be on Medicaid. So that’s kind of out of our hands. With prisons, we are working hard to find a more efficient way to run our prisons and bring the costs down. Any money where we can save there. I am first to say I’d love to see our hard working state employees, who deserve a pay raise, [get] a pay raise.”
Sen. Marsh says when he took over the Pro Tempore’s office in 2011, he cut the office’s spending in half. And those numbers do add up. He also drastically cut the staff under the pro tem’s umbrella. The amount of employees now are less than a quarter of what they were.
Representative Craig Ford says the system isn’t working.
“It’s difficult that we pay a state trooper in the state of Alabama $35,000 on the road as a road trooper, and then a secretary in Montgomery may make over $80,000,” Ford said. “That’s just discouraging.”
Rep. Ford would like to look at a way to utilize some of the growth tax in the education fund to help fund a pay raise for merit system employees.