Joint Finance Committee (copy) (copy)

The Legislature's Joint Finance Committee on Tuesday approved 2 percent wage increases for state employees in each year of the biennium. 

Entry-level Wisconsin correctional officers would get a 14% pay increase over the next two years under a proposal aimed at addressing staffing shortages that the Legislature’s budget committee signed off on Tuesday.

But they’re not the only ones who would see raises during the next biennium after Joint Finance Committee members approved a separate proposal to up state employees’ pay by 2 percent each of the next two years.

Both plans cleared the panel on 11-4 party-line votes, with the committee's four Dems voting against them.  

Entry-level correctional officers would see wage increases from $16.65 to $19 an hour under the $35 million pay progression plan, while more senior workers would see similar increases.

The plan also includes bonuses for longer-term employees on the basis of seniority ranging from $250 for 10 years of service to $1,000 for 25 years and every five years after. Certain Department of Health Services employees would also be eligible for those bonuses. 

The correctional pay raise includes the 2 percent increases that would also be awarded to other state workers, as well as UW System employees. Those payments would be doled out on Jan. 1, 2020, and Jan. 1, 2021.

The votes came after the Department of Corrections late last month instituted a new program boosting correction staff wages by $5 per hour at six maximum security prisons in the state. The Wisconsin Secure Program Facility at Boscobel was excluded from the program.

Joint Finance Committee member Rep. Mark Born, R-Beaver Dam, told reporters ahead of Tuesday's votes the move was "foolishness," though he noted the panel wouldn't attempt to curb or block it. 

Still, the new increases and pay structure for correctional officers wouldn’t apply to individuals working at those six facilities until the second year of the budget.

Fellow Republican committee member Sen. Howard Marklein, whose district includes the Boscobel facility, criticized Evers for leaving the Wisconsin Secure Program Facility out of the new program. 

"So this is much more fair than I think what happened with that targeted, $5 per-hour increase," said Marklein, R-Spring Green. 

But Rep. Chris Taylor defended Evers and noted the authority the Department of Corrections used to implement the increase came from the 2013-15 compensation plan, which was approved by a Republican-majority legislative committee. 

"Don’t criticize this governor for trying to remedy the crisis you all created," the Madison Democrat said. "Because you created the system he is using, but finally he is funding it to try to alleviate these crisis vacancy rates at these maximum security prisons."

Republicans on the committee also shot down a proposal from Democrats that would have — in part — raised certain state employees’ pay to $15 per hour, a measure proposed by Evers. The raise would have included those working in the executive branch, affecting an estimated 410 employees, or around 1.4% of permanent employees overall, that currently earn less than $15 per hour.

And the panel voted to approve allocating $4 million over the next two years to provide a market wage adjustment for some state employees. Evers and committee Democrats sought $12.1 million. The funding is used to hike pay for certain employees where recruitment and retention issues have been identified because state salaries are below market levels.

Lawmakers Tuesday also approved a pay progression program to speed up processing times at the State Crime Lab, an initiative backed by Attorney General Josh Kaul. That passed the committee on a 15-0 vote. 

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