BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s state workers will get pay raises this year despite the pandemic’s effect on state revenues, because Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed a legislative effort to withhold $57 million for salary hikes, the state’s civil service director announced Wednesday.
Lawmakers sought to stall the pay raises in the budget that began July 1, freezing the money and ordering agencies not to dole out increases. They cited the state’s financial uncertainty because of the coronavirus pandemic, and said it seemed inappropriate to give pay raises to public employees while private sector workers were struggling so much in the outbreak.
But Civil Service Director Byron Decoteau told the commission that oversees regulations governing Louisiana’s civil service employees that Edwards stripped that language from the budget bill with his line-item veto authority.
“I have learned this morning that the governor has issued a line-item veto on those items,” Decoteau told the Civil Service Commission. He added: “From what I understand now, the funding will be in agencies’ budgets to pay those market adjustments.”
The Democratic governor hasn’t announced any budget vetoes publicly, and his spokeswoman didn’t immediately return a call for comment Wednesday to confirm the decision. Edwards previously said the pay raise delay wasn’t needed because the dollars currently were available to cover the cost.
Lawmakers had planned to determine later in the budget year if they wanted to release the money for the pay increases — or if the coronavirus pandemic has hammered the state’s finances too much to afford such raises. Withholding the money now might even make future layoffs unnecessary, they said.
The idea to stall the salary hikes emerged among Republicans in the Senate.
“We appreciate so much everything that our state employees do for us, but they haven’t lost a paycheck. It would be really bad to offer up pay raises when families are suffering out there,” said Sen. Heather Cloud, a Turkey Creek Republican.