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Patrick grants managers 3% raise

$9.9m cost amid cuts; 1st since ’07

By Noah Bierman
Globe Staff / June 10, 2011

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Governor Deval Patrick granted a 3 percent raise yesterday to 4,000 state managers beginning July 1, despite a budget that cuts higher education, local aid, and social services.

Patrick’s budget chief, Jay Gonzalez, sent a memo to Cabinet secretaries yesterday authorizing the raise, which will cost the state about $9.9 million and coincides with a salary increase for unionized employees. Managers have not had a pay raise since July 2007, a result of the fiscal crisis, and union members have seen only a 1 percent pay raise since that time.

“While we acknowledge that our economy is not fully recovered, this wage adjustment is the right thing to do to help the Commonwealth retain and recruit a talented and competitive workforce that can continue to work hard for the people of Massachusetts,’’ Patrick said in a statement that chronicled sacrifices by state employees during the recession, such as furlough days and high health care payments.

The governor and his staff will not get the raises, said a spokeswoman for Gonzalez, nor will the eight Cabinet secretaries.

The coming year’s budget, which also begins July 1, will be among the toughest in state history, as Patrick and lawmakers have been forced to address a $1.9 billion gap. Federal stimulus money that has propped up state programs during the depths of the economic downturn expires this year, forcing extensive cuts.

State college tuition and fees, for example, are set to increase 7.5 percent next semester, following a vote Wednesday by the University of Massachusetts board.

Bonnie Keefe-Layden — chief executive officer of Rehabilitative Resources Inc., a Sturbridge-based nonprofit organization that contracts with the state to house people with disabilities — called the management raises shocking. For three years, she said, the state has resisted giving raises to 30,000 contract employees who make about $12 an hour to work with elderly and disabled residents, helping them shower, get dressed, and accomplish other basic tasks.

“Nothing’s wrong with anyone getting a raise,’’ Keefe-Layden said. “But if you’re keeping an entire sector of the lowest-paid people from getting a raise while giving management a raise, that’s just mind-boggling.’’

Gonzalez argues that pay freezes, furloughs, and benefit reductions for both union and management workers have prevented deeper cuts to state services, saving the state $200 million since July 2007. Even with a 3 percent hike, state managers will have taken a $3.4 million combined cut between July 2008 and July 2012 because of furlough days, Gonzalez said.

“State managers have made incredible sacrifices over the last few years to help us protect funding for all of those causes,’’ said Gonzalez. “We have asked so much of managers over the last few years. If we’re going to get the quality of people in state government we need to provide those services, this is a step we need to take.’’

Gonzalez said state agencies would have to find the money for the wage increases in their own budgets, which have also been curtailed during the state’s fiscal crisis. Cabinet secretaries may choose to opt out of the raises.

He wrote that state managers have also faced increased health insurance costs and been required to work more as the state eliminated 10.4 percent of managers.

A spokeswoman for Gonzalez said that others not getting the raises will be new hires and managers who have received pay raises since January, including a group of 17 transportation managers who received raises averaging 9 percent this year after supervisors said they took on more responsibility.

Michael J. Widmer, president of the business-backed Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation and a frequent critic of state spending, said the state risks sapping morale if managers continue to go without a pay raise.

But Bruce E. Tarr, the Senate Republican leader, said it would be hard for state agencies to absorb pay increases without compromising services, given the number of cuts they have made in recent years.

Yesterday, he sponsored a measure that passed 37-0 in the Senate that would require the governor to file a plan every two years to control staff costs and improve personnel efficiency.

Tarr said yesterday’s move by the governor was a surprise, as the state continues to struggle with a deficit and as private-sector employees continue to go without pay hikes.

“That’s the economic climate that millions of Massachusetts residents are living in,’’ he said. “They’ve had multiple years of lost income.’’

But Tarr’s own staff has not gone without salary adjustments. They received pay raises when he was promoted to minority leader earlier this year, because, he said, their responsibilities increased.

Noah Bierman can be reached at nbierman@globe.com.