JACKSON- In the midst of budget cuts through the 2016 fiscal year, some agencies are still raising employee salaries leaving many to wonder how and why?
According to a legislative assistance report, 3,396 state workers in 81 different positions were given pay bumps totaling $12.4 million between July 1 and Nov. 30, 2016.
This bump comes as a shock to many after substantial budget cuts made by Mississippi legislators and Gov. Bryant during the 2016 Legislative Session.
When asked how these changes are possible Sen. Hob Bryan used the Department of Mental Health as en example.
“Workers who take care of people who are mentally ill, we are talking about people who work 40 hours a week taking care of the personal needs of these individuals. It’s a very stressful job, it’s a very hard job to do,”said Bryan.
Bryan said currently employees,people who start as trainees, earn $7.64 an hour and the department is trying to increase salaries to $8.79 an hour.
“Does anyone seriously believe that paying someone $8.79 an hour to take care of the personal needs of a mentally ill person is overpaying that individual,” said Bryan.
Adam Moore told local media that many of these raises in the mental health department were actually reclassifications (i.e. trainees to full time employees).
Bryan said in order to keep turn over rates down, and employee the best possible mental health care workers, these salary increases are vital.
However, not everyone is in agreement. Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves has said that these agencies are not being transparent to the public and are claiming they are underfunded when they continue to make spending decisions that cost taxpayer dollars.
Bryan said it just doesn’t add up, and that the disturbance should not come from allowing employees to receive salary increases, but from legislature approving billions in tax cuts for large corporations within the state.
“This legislature has voted to give billions of dollars in tax cuts to people who are putting in shopping centers in South Madison County,” said Bryan. “Reimbursing Wal-Mart for their property taxes, reimbursing people who have natural gas stored in storage facilities in Mississippi for the taxes they pay. They even voted to cut taxes on whiskey.”
Senator Joey Fillingane, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee said “I think at a time of budget constraints and tightening of fiscal belts, state agencies that chose to give large raises do so at their own peril. Clearly now is not the appropriate time for giving large pay increases when we are in the midst of a budget crunch.”