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State Employees Applaud Pay Increase

March 17, 2008

Pierre, SD – State lawmakers return to Pierre today, after a two-week break, to put the final wrap on this year's legislative session. One group expressing its appreciation to lawmakers for a job well done is the South Dakota State Employees Organization (SDSEO). Its spokesman commended policymakers for sticking to a 3 percent state employee pay raise.

SDSEO Executive Director Corey Landeen says the increase is especially important to wage-earners at the lower end of the pay scale, who are facing major health insurance costs. He cites a common perception that the state's health insurance plan is superior to plans offered by the private sector, but explains that is not the case.

"A lot of employers in South Dakota provide a comparable healthcare plan to their employees. But if a state employee has been working for 10 years, there's a considerable difference in the cost of that plan when they started and what it is today, and it gives less coverage. If you don't bring their wages up to a level to offset those changes, state employees fall farther and farther behind."

Landeen has met with numerous state employees who told him they appreciate that the legislators negotiated with the governor's office to bump up the pay increase from 2.5 percent to 3 percent.

"I want to personally thank the legislators and the governor's office for coming to that compromise to get people up to 3 percent, and for recognizing it was something we really needed to do this year. Some feel it's a hollow victory because of the increases in healthcare costs, and it's a fine line -- we're happy to get the 3 percent, and yet we have concerns about the healthcare."

Lawmakers are back to consider the governor's vetoes and any other business left undone on the last day of the session, Feb. 29.

David Law/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - SD