Governor Bentley reinstating merit-based pay increases

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) – Many Alabama state employees are going to get their first raise in five years, and it could be up to 5 percent.

Gov. Robert Bentley sent a letter to state agencies saying he plans to reinstate merit raises starting Jan. 1. State employees got their last merit raises and cost-of-living raises in late 2008. There have been none since then because the recession affected state tax collections.

Bentley said state employees have been asked to do more with less in recent years. “They not only accepted that challenge, but many have succeeded in performing their jobs above and beyond their normal call of duty,” he said.

Bentley said state agencies will go back to the system that allowed supervisors to award up to two steps on the merit system pay scale. Each step is 2.5 percent.

State Personnel Director Jackie Graham welcomed the news. “With no raises, it has been difficult to retain employees who have had other options,” she said.

Graham said 80 percent of Alabama’s merit system employees are eligible for merit raises because they have not reached the top of the pay scales for their jobs. To get the raises, they must exceed the standards for their job, and many usually do.

Bentley’s decision follows a recommendation made by the Legislature, which wrapped up its session in May.

The executive director of the Alabama State Employees Association, Mac McArthur, said his organization worked with the governor and Legislature for several months to resume the raises. He said it is great news for the 30,000 merit system employees who’ve seen their paychecks eroded by inflation and by higher pension costs.

Before Tuesday’s announcement, “you probably had the lowest morale I’ve seen in my 30 years,” McArthur said.

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