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Delaware state workers could get pay raises

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(The Center Square) — Delaware’s public sector workforce could be getting a bump in pay in the next fiscal year, with budget writers approving 9% pay raises for state employees across the board.

Under a proposal approved by the Joint Finance Committee on Tuesday, full-time state workers would receive a raise ranging from 3% to 9% depending on their pay grade, with the lowest grades receiving higher percentage raises. Education employees would get a 3% raise, while teachers would receive an additional 6% bump in pay.

“We owe it to our dedicated state workers to compensate them fairly and offer meaningful opportunities for career advancement,” state Rep. William Carson, the committee’s chairman, said in a statement. “As we responsibly did last year, we’re targeting working Delawareans who most need a raise.”

Carson said the cost of goods and services have increased amid record-high inflation, “forcing working families to make tough decisions that no one should have to 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,” he said.

Gov. John Carney recommended the pay raises in his preliminary budget, filed in January, which called for spending $5.48 billion — a more than 7% increase over the current fiscal year.

The 12-member committee, which includes representatives and senators from both parties, is charged with drafting the state’s operating budget and typically deals with pay raises during its first day of budget markups.

If approved by the General Assembly, it would be the second consecutive pay raise for Delaware’s state workers, who received a 2% to 9% bump in the current fiscal year.

Legislative leaders argue that pay raises are needed to attract and retain state workers in a competitive labor market. They point to “significant vacancies” for educators, social workers, medical staff and first responders that have forced most state agencies to do more with less personnel.

The average state employee salary is $52,033 per year, and under this plan, they would receive a 6% increase.

The budget-writing committee also approved a proposal from Carney to set a $15 per hour minimum wage for merit state workers.

The panel’s co-chairman Sen. Trey Paradee, D-Dover, said ahead of the budget process, nearly every state department “rang the alarm” about struggles with staff shortages they argue are due, partly to pay for state workers lagging behind private sector workers.

“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,” he said in a statement. “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.”

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