Colorado state jobs pay 6% more | VailDaily.com

Colorado state jobs pay 6% more

Tim Hoover
The Denver Post
Denver, CO Colorado

DENVER, Colorado –Colorado state employees make an average of 6 percent more than workers who do the same jobs in the private sector or for other governments, a private audit of the state’s salary system released Monday found.

The audit, from Fox Lawson and Associates, a St. Paul, Minn.-based firm that specializes in personnel and salary issues, said state workers in some categories make as much as 16 percent more than the market average for the same positions. They used data from the fiscal year that ends June 30.

But state personnel officials pointed out something the audit itself noted: The report did not measure the state workers’ total compensation package, which includes health insurance and retirement benefits.

Personnel officials said the state’s benefits are not as generous as the rest of the market’s, and when the lower benefits are taken into account, state workers make only an average of 2 percent more than other employees, or close to the market average.

Rep. Mark Ferrandino, a member of the legislature’s Joint Budget Committee and a Denver Democrat, agreed, saying the audit’s findings should be put in perspective.

“Our health benefits are not very competitive with our counterparts – city, county or the private sector,” he said. “I don’t hear from a lot of people both in the private sector or public sector, ‘I need to go work for the state because they pay so well.’ “

Premiums and co-pays

Jody Berger, a spokeswoman for Colorado WINS, the largest organized labor group representing state workers, said state employees pay higher insurance premiums and higher co-payments and deductibles than workers in other sectors.

“There are some state employees that are paying $1,000 a month for coverage,” Berger said.

Lawmakers this year passed a budget that nixed a proposed pay increase for state workers. The budget also slashed payroll costs by nearly 2 percent statewide, leaving Gov. Bill Ritter, a Democrat, the option of leaving some positions unfilled and possibly furloughing some workers.

The audit criticized the state’s process for determining how much state employees should be paid, noting that the Department of Personnel and Administration measured how much market-salary ranges increased each year rather than what the actual pay was for those non-state workers.

“This process, however, assumes that the state’s salary structures are set appropriately in the first place, and that actual employee salaries are set appropriately within those structures, which is not the case,” the contract audit said. “In fact, when we compared actual state employee salaries with actual market salaries for all benchmark jobs, we found that in the aggregate, state salaries exceeded market salaries by more than 6 percent.”

For “professional and financial services,” the state’s average salaries were 8 percent higher than the market, while its pay for “physical sciences and engineering” was 14.2 percent higher than the market, the audit found. For “enforcement and protective services,” which includes the state’s highway patrol troopers, the pay was 16 percent higher than the market, the audit found.

Some categories closer

Meanwhile, the state’s salaries for jobs categorized as “labor, trades and crafts,” “health care services” and “administrative support” and related were 1 percent below market scale, a margin that auditors said showed the pay was about right for those jobs.

Department of Personnel and Administration officials said they agreed that the state’s salary-comparison process should be changed to look at actual salaries instead of overall increases in salary structures. They said the changes would take place Aug. 1, but added that a look at employees’ total compensation was needed.

But Rep. Frank McNulty, R-Highlands Ranch, said state workers need to look at the larger picture.

“While many Coloradans are worrying about whether they’re going to have a job,” he said, “if you’re a state employee, the argument is about how much more you’re going to get, not whether you’re going to have a job.”

Tim Hoover: 303-954-1626 or thoover@denverpost.com