State employees association eyes hazard pay, cost of living increases ahead of legislative session

State employee association eyes hazard pay, cost of living increases ahead of legislative session
State employee association eyes hazard pay, cost of living increases ahead of legislative session(WIS)
Published: Jan. 9, 2022 at 5:09 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 9, 2022 at 8:33 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - State lawmakers return to the capitol on January 11 and the South Carolina State Employees Association (SCSEA) is hoping they’ll give government workers a raise.

Association Executive Director Carlton Washington said he believes there is bipartisan support to take on the issues of hazard pay and cost of living adjustments for employees.

“I think if the [House Ways and Means Chairman G. Murrell Smith] supports it like has been communicating, I think we’ll see some progress and I think the senate will be receptive to that conversation as well,” Washington said.

In December, Washington sent Smith a letter requesting lawmakers institute a 5.9 percent cost of living adjustment for employees and implement one-time hazard pay bonuses.

He wrote South Carolina employee salaries are failing to keep pace with inflation.

Washington also pointed to Lexington County, which approved COVID hazard bonuses in the range of $1,600 to $5,700.

“So when employees see that and then they realize the state hasn’t said anything in that regard, it’s very disheartening to them,” he said.

Lawmakers did attempt to pass hazard pay bonuses in September 2020 but the effort fell short in the House of Representatives.

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However, in 2021 employees did receive a 2.5 percent pay bump.

Chairman Smith (R-Sumter) said the details of the raises are yet to be ironed out but it is a “priority.”

“Certainly, I believe that it is important for us to have a pay raise for state employees especially during this time during the inflationary climate that we’re in,” he said.

Smith said it will largely come down to what money is available and said he expects a longer-form pay-raise will be a higher priority than a one-time hazard pay bonus.

Senate Finance Committee member Sen. Katrina Shealy (R-Lexington) also expressed more support for a pay-raise than a bonus.

“I think there’s always an appetite for a pay raise for state employees because we need to keep our state employees, especially now,” Shealy said.

State agencies have struggled with staffing, including high-profile issues at the S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice.

Washington said Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-Orangeburg) has also been active on the issue of employee pay.

She has not returned a request for comment.

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