The Press-Enterprise — Government should not set salary decisions on autopilot. State and local elected officials should avoid employee contract provisions that link pay with what other agencies offer. That practice mindlessly ratchets up pay with no regard for available resources, need or any other practical consideration.
The state announced last week that California Highway Patrol officers are getting a 5.9 percent pay raise this year. Four percent of the increase goes directly to higher salaries, while the remaining 1.9 percent goes to prefund health benefits for workers when they retire. The state estimates the pay hike will cost taxpayers $44.4 million this fiscal year for rank and file union members.
But the raise does not stem from any review of performance, pay scales, living expenses, inflation or any other factor. Instead, Highway Patrol officers will collect more money just because police elsewhere in California recently got raises. The CHP’s state contract ties officers’ salary levels to what police take home in Los Angeles County and the cities of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland and San Diego. Pay at those agencies has climbed, so Highway Patrol officers will receive more, too.
Basing state pay on unrelated local government decisions sets a bizarre benchmark. Why should the state, with vastly different resources, responsibilities and priorities than local government, link its employees’ pay to whatever cities and counties agree to offer? Such an approach takes responsibility for state spending decisions out of legislators’ hands, and gives it to local governments — who are focused on their own considerations and not the state’s labor contracts. Abdicating control of spending to outside bodies hardly constitutes careful fiscal management.
And Highway Patrol pay is already generous. The Sacramento Bee reports that the average regular pay for a full-time officer in 2012 was more than $86,600. But overtime and a range of other special pay categories can quickly inflate basic salary, and about 70 percent of the CHP union — more than 4,700 officers — posted six figure-incomes in 2012. Is an automatic increase to already big salaries the wisest use of taxpayer funds given the state’s other pressing needs? continue reading...