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Walker Budget

Gov. Scott Walker's administration has suspended merit and retention raises.

JOHN HART -- State Journal

Merit raises and retention pay increases for state workers — including some UW System employees — have been suspended by Gov. Scott Walker’s administration.

The announcement about the raise suspensions, “effective immediately,” was made in a Feb. 5 memo to state agencies’ human resources directors.

It’s unclear how many employees will be affected. Under Walker’s 2013-15 budget, most state workers received a 1 percent pay increase each fiscal year.

The freeze affects merit pay raises, known as Discretionary Merit Compensation, and increases aimed at retaining workers, known as Discretionary Equity or Retention Adjustment Programs. Other raises are not affected.

“We suggest that agencies cease accepting or processing any additional requests because the suspension is anticipated to continue for the remainder of this fiscal year,” wrote Gregory Gracz, director of the Office of State Employment Relations.

The current fiscal year ends June 30.

“This is another slap in the face of workers by the Walker administration,” said Marty Beil, executive director of AFSCME Council 24 Wisconsin State Employees Union. “It shows more disdain from the Walker administration for the working men and women of the state.”

Beil said there aren’t many people “screaming about it” because morale is so low that workers weren’t expecting any merit raises.

University of Wisconsin faculty, academic staff and appointees will not be affected, but UW System spokesman Alex Hummel said the freeze will apply to classified employees, including custodians, administrative assistants, information technology workers, accountants and food service workers.

He said there are about 10,100 UW System employees considered classified staff, but not all will be affected because the types of pay raises put on hold are not automatic.

“It was a tool that we would use to reward and retain,” Hummel said.

Cullen Werwie, spokesman for the state Department of Administration, said the announcement went out to all state agencies last week in an effort to help balance the budget.

There are no specific savings figures available, Werwie said, and it’s unclear how many people have been affected.

The state faces a budget shortfall for the current fiscal year. Financial estimates released last month by the nonpartisan Legislative Fiscal Bureau showed the state facing a $283 million shortfall for the current fiscalyear.

The latest estimate from the fiscal bureau is closer to $233 million, in part because of millions of dollars the Forest County Potawatomi tribe paid to the state for its Milwaukee casino.

The tribe had previously withheld payments due to tensions over the proposed casino in Kenosha, which Walker hasrejected.

The Walker administration has said the state Department of Revenue predicts revenue collections for this fiscal year will be better than what the fiscal bureau projected.

Walker spokeswoman Laurel Patrick has previously said no budget repair bill is needed for the current fiscal year’s shortfall, and that agency heads would be able to “use all available tools to live within their means” and carefully manage agency resources.

Last week’s memo said the effective date for merit and retention pay increase requests that already completed an agency’s approval process — and “for which the agency wishes to proceed” — would be honored once the suspension is lifted.

Werwie said agencies will have the ability to offer merit and retention raises under the 2015-17 budget proposal, but added that any funding for them would need to come from each agency’s budget.

“So to utilize these tools, agencies would need to track their expenditures and manage their budgets,” Werwie said.

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State Government Reporter for Wisconsin State Journal

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