Frozen PIDs

A co-worker today asked me to blog about frozen PIDs. After I figured out that frozen PIDs could not be found in the frozen foods aisle of Safeway, I was interested to explore this topic.

 A PID is a Periodic Increment Date. It’s the date on which some state employees receive an automatic increase in wages. About a third of state employees earn yearly increments, which generally occur over the first six years in a position.

 Like any other big business, the cost of running state government is largely associated with the many people who care for the most fragile citizens, provide education, build roads and provide myriad other critical public services. There’s no doubt that the state spends a lot of money on compensation for the people it employs.

 Remember the first rule of this blog: any legislative proposal has to get 50 votes in the House, 25 in the Senate, and 1 on the governor’s office in order to become law. So, what are elected leaders saying about freezing PIDs?

The governor’s proposed biennial budget  suspends annual increment salary increases for teachers to save $56.6 million. But that’s just a few of the 21,000 state employees who would get wage increases of up to 5 percent next year–worth about $83 million.  Here’s how the governor described the situation in a memo to state employees on the day she released her budget:

I have made it clear that state employees were not responsible for this crisis and that you should not bear the full burden of solving it.  Since this crisis began you’ve stepped up to the plate with no cost-of-living increases, you’ve experienced furloughs and more than 8,200 positions have been eliminated.  In labor negotiations we asked employees to again step up, with tentative agreements reached including a pay reduction of 3% in the next biennium saving $330 million across all funds.  That 3% reduction is reduced work of 5.2 hours per month—how each agency will determine how those hours are taken will be flexible.  I thank you, and am grateful, for your sacrifice. 

Meantime, earlier this week the blog of the majority leader of the state Senate, Sen. Lisa Brown (D-Spokane) cited cutting state employee compensation as one of the “myths” associated with balancing the state budget: 

Public employees aren’t responsible for our budget situation, or for the recession which got us to this point.  And the myth of “the overpaid state employee” is just that — a myth.  A recent national study by a renowned Rutgers professor found that, when education and experience and other factors are controlled for, state workers are paid 7.6 percent less than they would performing similar work in the private sector.

The fact is, we could require every state worker to take a one-hundred percent pay cut and we’d still be a billion dollars in the hole.  We could fire every single state employee and zero out their benefits, and we still have a budget problem.

Yet –even still – public employees will be asked once again to be a part of the solution by sacrificing in this time of ongoing crisis.

Last week the majority Senate Democrats unveiled a proposal to balance the current budget period, which ends June 30. It embraced the governor’s 3-percent proposed budget cut, moving it up to April of this year. But neither the House nor the Senate supplemental budgets, which only apply to the last few months of this fiscal year, included any PID freezes.

If we see PID freezes, they would most likely be included in biennial budget plans. The state House and Senate have not yet released proposals for the next two-year budget period. The governor announced her plan in December.  We won’t hear from the legislature until early March. For now at least, the PIDs are all right (with apologies to Lisa Cholodenko).

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About Linda Schactler

Linda is the former Director of Communications for the Washington State Senate, and former deputy director of the Washington State Higher Education Coordinating Board. From 2000 through 2010 Linda was the proprietor of Schactler Communications, an Olympia-based public affairs business. She holds a master of arts in English literature from Washington University in St. Louis. Linda can be reached at her Ellensburg office schactler@cwu.edu, 509-963-1384, or on her cell phone, 509-607-4103.
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