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Lawmakers approve second consecutive pay raise for state employees

Roman Battaglia
Delaware Public Media

The budget-writing Joint Finance Committee approved pay raises of up to nine percent for state employees on Tuesday – the second year in a row that lawmakers have provided such a raise.

The raises will range from three to nine percent, with full-time employees at the bottom of the pay scale receiving the largest raises. An average state employee making just over $52,000 would receive a six percent raise, boosting their salary by more than $3,000.

The pay policy will have a unique impact on DNREC’s budget; in the past, the agency has relied on its own fee revenues to pay some salaries. Many of those fees have not been increased in over a decade, which state Sen. Trey Paradee says leaves DNREC unable to bring in enough revenue to cover the proposed salary increases.

“What we’re doing for the other rank-and-file employees we pay through the general fund," he said. "For DNREC to be able to extend the same raises, there isn’t enough fee revenue to cover these increases.”

The same pay policy package also includes Gov. John Carney’s recommendation to establish a $15 minimum wage for full-time state employees, though the total number of state employees earning below $15 per hour is extremely low.

The committee separately approved an additional $9 million for the state’s Office of Management and Budget to pay for anticipated salary increases tied to collective bargaining agreements; several state employee unions, including the organization representing corrections officers, are currently negotiating new contracts.

In total, the proposed 2024 budget would include an additional $150 million for state employee compensation relative to the previous year’s budget.

Lawmakers argue the consecutive raises are vital both to manage the state’s widespread staffing shortage and to keep pace with skyrocketing cost of living increases.

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

But active state employees will also see their health insurance premiums rise by more than nine percent in 2024, with similar increases projected for the following two years.

Paul Kiefer comes to Delaware from Seattle, where he covered policing, prisons and public safety for the local news site PubliCola.