Like zombie whack-a-moles, proposals for cutting Texas state employees’ pay keep springing up after they’ve hammered back into the hole where they came from. “It looks like there will be several attempts to eliminate, cut, or suspend state employee longevity pay,” said Derrick Osobase, political director for the Texas State Employees Union. “Two proposals have been defeated or sidelined, but we believe there will be others.”
Texas state employees receive $20 a month extra in longevity pay after two years of service. Then they receive an additional $20 a month every two years of service up to 40 years. Eliminating longevity pay will reduce the annual salary of a worker who has served Texas for 20 years by $2,400.
Osobase praised the mobilization efforts of union members that, so far, have kept these pay cut measures at bay but warned that they aren’t dead yet.
The proposal to eliminate longevity pay first surfaced in HB 3168. The House Committee on Government Reform and Efficiency heard testimony on the bill in early April and was set to report it out of committee. But a flurry of phone calls from TSEU members and other state employees caused the measure to remain pending in committee.
The committee on April 27 adopted a substitute to HB 3168 that deleted longevity pay cuts from the bill, but language was added that authorized state agencies and universities to furlough workers for 30 days a year. The bill was reported out of committee and referred to the House Calendars Committee, which sets the House’s daily agenda. So far, the bill remains in the Calendar Committee.
“Furloughing state employees will effectively reduce services that people rely on, cut state employee pay by as much as 4.6 percent, and lead to higher turnover rates,” Osobase said. “Turnover in agencies that provide essential services is already high; it’s 31 percent at the state supported living centers (where 4,000 Texans with mental disabilities live), 23 percent at the Texas Youth Commission, and 25 percent at Child Protective Services. We’ll try to keep the bill bottled up in the Calendars Committee.”
Another bill, HB 2954, would also eliminate state employee longevity pay. The Government Reform and Efficiency Committee scheduled a hearing for that bill on the day after it deleted longevity pay cuts from HB 3168. That hearing, however, was canceled. “HB 2954 has been left pending in committee and will probably not move,” Osobase said. “But there was an attempt to get a similar measure moving in the Senate.”
Sen Jane Nelson, a Republican from Flower Mound, tried to amend SB 1811, a budget bill that would raise about $4 billion in non-tax revenue to help offset the state’s budget deficit. Her amendment would have suspended longevity pay for two years. The amendment was defeated in the Senate by a vote of 20 to 11.
“We can defeat these efforts to cut state worker pay,” Osobase said. “But we have to keep the pressure on. We have to keep calling lawmakers and voicing our opposition to pay cuts, and we have to get our fellow state employees who haven’t joined TSEU yet to join now.”