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News

Pay Raises Going To Some Newer State Workers

50 Columbus Blvd State Office Building
Ryan Caron King/Connecticut Public
/
Connecticut Public
View of the State Office Building at 50 Columbus Blvd. in downtown Hartford.

Some high-level managers with less than one year on the job could be eligible for raises under a plan announced by Gov. Ned Lamont this month to boost pay for state employees.

More than 1,700 non-union workers stand to receive raises of up to 7.5% under the plan, including cost-of-living increases of 3.5% and a performance-based increase of up to 4% for each employee.

Announcing the raises earlier this month, Lamont’s budget secretary, Melissa McCaw, said many are catching up with pay hikes that unionized co-workers received over the last two fiscal years.

But a review by Connecticut Public found some relatively new hires could also see big bumps in their pay checks.

At least 28 people hired since July 1, 2020, appear to qualify, even though they weren’t yet employed by the state when unionized staff got those raises.

The list ranges from low-level assistants in agencies such as the Office of Early Childhood and Secretary of the State, to a deputy environmental commissioner and a high-level agricultural scientist making six figures. They could be eligible for annual salary increases worth between $4,100 and nearly $11,000.

Two weeks after the governor’s announcement, it remains unclear exactly who will get a salary bump. The Lamont administration declined an interview. Most state agencies referred questions regarding the raises to the governor, or to the Department of Administrative Services and the Office of Policy and Management, which handle staffing and policy issues for the administration.

Neither of those offices responded by Thursday afternoon to questions from Connecticut Public, though administration officials released a copy of their broad eligibility guidelines.

Discussing the raises previously, the governor’s budget chief said they’re needed in part to help fill top positions, since they’re expecting an influx of retirements in the coming years.

Connecticut Budget
Jessica Hill/AP
Melissa McCaw, Connecticut secretary of the Office of Policy and Management discusses points in Gov. Ned Lamont's budget plan at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, Conn., on Feb. 20, 2019.

Consultants hired by the state recently interviewed 200 state employees and found that low pay and uncertainty about raises discourage some from moving up the ranks. But the study didn’t compare state government salaries to private-sector salaries.

“We want to ensure that we're able to attract and retain top talent across all of our agencies, whether they're in a management position or in a non-management position,” McCaw said.

Mitch Goldblatt, an adjunct professor of public administration at the University of New Haven, said many managers in state government have specialized training and advanced degrees, which makes them attractive candidates for employers in the private sector.

Replacing workers who leave for higher pay can also be expensive, since it costs money to recruit top talent.

“There's a void,” said Goldblatt, who is also president of the Connecticut Public Employer Labor Relations Association “and that void doesn't come without a cost.”

The pay raises are expected to be rolled out in September and will be provided retroactive to July 1, 2021. About 6% of executive branch workers will receive them, according to administration officials. Top officials in the state's higher education system and those in the legislative and judicial branches have not determined if these raises will be provided to their employees.

The pay hikes are expected to cost the state a combined $13.3 million.