Texas Has Plenty of Money But Stiffs Its State Employees, Angry Workers Say

AUSTIN — Several hundred state workers marched Wednesday in downtown Austin, demanding a $6,000-a-year across-the-board raise.The last "real" pay raise that all state employees received was in 2014, several speakers said at a rally at the Capitol. After a 2 percent raise that year, a 2.5 percent bump the next year was wiped out by higher employee contributions to a state pension fund.The paltry salary increases over the last decade have driven turnover to a 30-year high, said Judy Lugo, president of the 10,000-member Texas State Employees Union.During a legislative session with lots of talk about raising teacher pay, Lugo scolded politicians for ignoring what she called the financial plight of many of Texas' 145,000 agency employees, 180,000 state university workers and tens of thousands of retirees. "Texas is a wealthy state," she said. "As we speak, legislators are sitting on plenty of money to give every single state agency and university worker a $6,000 a year pay raise and every retiree a cost-of-living increase. There are no good excuses."She said the solution is simple: Tap the rainy day fund, which is mostly generated by energy-production taxes and is projected to have more than $15 billion by the end of the next two-year budget cycle.But GOP leaders don't appear to be inclined to dip further into savings to help state workers and retirees.In its budget, the House would distribute about a quarter-billion dollars for selected pay raises, with about two-thirds going to prison guards and parole officers.The Senate's budget conferred far less. For instance, it ponied up only about half what the House did for prison guard raises, with the percentages to be determined by the agency.Spokesmen for Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Speaker Dennis Bonnen did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday on the State Employee Union's demand.Workers want 'respect'During an eight-block march in 90-degree heat, workers chanted slogans such as "What's outrageous? Texas wages!"One carried a poster that said, "SHAME: 16 Years Without a C.O.L.A. For Retirees."On the Capitol's south steps, several protesters hoisted placards with images of the singer Aretha Franklin's face and the message, "Put some respect in my check."  Continue reading...

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