Bill would freeze salaries of non-union state workers

Gov. Bill Walker is proposing to implement a two-year pay freeze for non-unionized state employees

Senate Bill 31, introduced on Jan. 20, would halt salary increases from July 1, 2017 through June 30, 2019 for exempt, partially exempt, and nonunion employees n the executive branch, legislative branch and University of Alaska.

If approved by the Legislature, it would impact some 5,000 state workers.

In a transmittal letter to Speaker of the House Bruce Edgmon, D- Dillingham, Walker noted that he is using his authority until Article III, Section 18 of the Alaska Constitution in asking the Legislature to approval the measure.

The bill would freeze salaries by prohibiting the payment of general salary increases and eliminating the payment of merit step increases and pay increments, and additionally the bill would give the governor the authority to waive any portion of the governor’s salary during that period, he said.

“This two-year freeze in employee pay will allow time for the state to responsibly address the serious budget deficit,” he said.

The bill was referred to the Senate State Affairs Committee. Follow action on the bill at http://www.akleg.gov/basis/Bill/Detail/30?Root=SB%20%2031

“Until we enact a sustainable fiscal plan, we must make adjustments,” Walker said. “I believe in leading by example and have reduced my own salary by one-third. While it won’t close the fiscal gap, this legislation is a necessary part of the solution to Alaska’s fiscal crisis.”

Some 24,300 people are employed by the state, of which about 5,000, or 22 percent, would see a salary freeze. There is currently no cost-of-living increase for non-union state workers.

Cost of living is part of the bargaining unit process and varies, noted Katie Marquette, Walker’s press secretary.

“Recently negotiated contracts have contained no cost of living increases. The last year of the Alaska Correctional officers Association contract is fiscal year 2018 and contained a 2.25 percent COLA. This information excludes the university,” she said.

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Margaret Bauman is a veteran Alaska journalist focused on covering fisheries and environmental issues. Bauman has been writing for The Cordova Times since 2010. You can reach her at mbauman@thecordovatimes.com.