DOVER, Del. - The legislative budget-writing committee approved raises for state workers on Tuesday that would give many on the lower end of the pay scale a significant boost.
The Joint Finance Committee, a 12-member panel of representatives and senators from both parties charged with drafting the state’s operating budget, approved the increases during its first day of markup. Markup is a period when the committee takes the governor’s recommended budget and begins voting on specific funding requests, essentially writing the budget.
State employee pay policy is among the first items typically to be voted on. Under the plan approved Tuesday, full-time state workers would receive a raise ranging from 3 percent to 9 percent depending on their pay grade, with the lowest grades receiving higher-percentage raises. Collective bargaining units would receive raises according to whatever they have negotiated. Education employees would receive a 3 percent raise and applicable step increases, while teachers would receive an additional 6 percent.
“We owe it to our dedicated state workers to compensate them fairly and offer meaningful opportunities for career advancement... We’re targeting working Delawareans who most need a raise,” said Joint Finance Committee Chair Rep. William Carson from District 28 of Dover and Smyrna. “The cost of goods and services have been increasing rapidly, forcing working families to make tough decisions that no one should have make. By continuing to use a sliding scale for raises, we are ensuring all employees receive a raise, but we’re preventing those on the lower end of the pay scale from falling further behind.”
As with many private businesses, the state government has experienced significant vacancies, and concerns about hiring and retention have been raised. Whether it’s educators, emergency personnel, social workers, medical staff, or first responders, officials say that ensuring these state workers receive a needed pay raise has been a priority. The average state employee salary is $52,033 per year, according to the General Assembly, and under this plan, they would receive a 6 percent increase.
“Over the winter, nearly every department of state government rang the alarm about their struggles with staff shortages due at least in part to state salaries coming in at below market rate," said Sen. Trey Paradee, Co-Chair of the Joint Finance Committee from District 17 of Dover and Camden. "As we compete for human infrastructure with major corporations in the area, we need to remain competitive if we are going to hope to maintain the level of services our state provides at its current level. The operating budget we are crafting this week is not the final investment in our state workforce that needs to be made, but it is a strong step in the right direction.”
Also, as part of the pay policy package approved Tuesday, the committee approved a recommendation from Governor Carney to establish a $15 minimum wage for merit full-time state employees.
This is the second consecutive year that the Joint Finance Committee has approved a sliding scale pay raise for state workers, with the fiscal 2023 budget including raises ranging from 2 to 9 percent.
The Joint Finance Committee will continue reviewing and voting on funding priorities for the fiscal 2023 operating budget this week. Once completed, legislative budget staff will write the final budget bill, which must be approved by the entire General Assembly.