Nice work if you can get it
The last few years have been tough for state workers as the economy has forced furloughs, workforce reductions and minimal cost-of-living raises.
Unless, of course, you work for the Legislature, where staffers are more richly rewarded by their legislative bosses.
House staffers received pay hikes as high as 31 percent; the high raise for a Senate staffer was 14 percent.
The raises, granted in 2011, were recently reported by the S.C. Policy Council, a conservative think tank headquartered in Columbia. Ashley Landess, the council’s executive director, questioned why a part-time Legislature needs high-paid full-time employees.
“The question is whether or not the employees are necessary in the first place. What do these employees do? Why do we pay them high salaries?”
Of course, the question that most state employees have to be asking themselves, and each other, is: Why are legislative employees treated as a special class?
It can’t help the morale of the state’s rank-and-file employees.
Greg Foster, spokesman for House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, says that working for the Legislature is a full-time job, even if it is in session only half the year.
He cited “ongoing legislative issues, work with state agencies and work serving the concerns and issues of over 4.6 million state constituents.” Mr. Foster received a 22 percent pay hike, to $85,000 a year, the second highest among legislative employees.
Of course, many other state employees are also at work on the most important of those responsibilities — serving the state’s 4.6 million-plus constituents. That’s the main part of their jobs, even if they don’t get the big salary hikes.
Apparently, it all depends on who you know.
In its report, the Policy Council said the raises for House staff raises were part of a late-session allocation and weren’t initially detailed in the 2011 legislative budget.
The Legislature is planning to address a number of ethical issues related to accountability and transparency next session. Add legislative staff pay raises to the growing list.