Underpaid? Employees hopeful this budget of billions provides salary raise

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - State employees who feel underpaid and undervalued are turning to one senator in particular for raises next year.

There was no raise for them put into the Senate or House budget draft, so now they await action by Sen. Darrell Jackson (D- Richland) to try to get up to a 3% raise added during this budget week in session.

Jackson says a 3% raise for those people to include case workers for abused children, those at the front lines at the DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) and even security detail at the State House could cost the state about $56 million. He would compromise for less but wants an improvement on what these workers make currently.

The State Employees Association says 75% of some 30,000 workers make below $41,185 per year; half of all workers make below $34,156, annually.

"I want to make sure people are compensated for what they do," Department of Social Services (DSS) employee James Jones said. "Catch it up to what it should be in today's system so that way people are paid for what they do, they're happy about how much they make, and they also feel good about going to work every day."

Certain groups of state employees have been worked into the budget drafts for pay raises; teachers would get 1% more under the Senate plan, 2% more under the House plan. Under the Senate plan, the Department of Corrections (SCDC) would get $5 million for an officer hiring and retention plan; they would get $3,749,531 under the House plan.

"I love teachers and I am for them getting raises," Jackson said. "I love law enforcement. I love those that work for the Department of Corrections. I think they all are wonderful. But I think if you are a hardworking state employee, you're asking the question 'why can some and not all?'"

Sen. Katrina Shealy (R- Lexington) says she is on board for employee raises. However, she feels there should be some limits, like a cap put on so that people who make $100,000 and above do not qualify for the raise. Plus, Shealy says agencies like DSS should take some money for hiring new people and use it for raises for existing employees instead.

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