Texas State Employees Union
"Most state employees did not receive any pay raise from 2009 to 2012."

Texas State Employees Union on Monday, April 1st, 2013 in an organization web page.

Employee group says most state workers did not field a raise from 2009 to 2012

Pay raises for Texas government workers are extremely rare of late, an employee group maintains. "Most state employees did not receive any pay raise from 2009 to 2012," the Texas State Employees Union says on a union web page.

On the same page, the union says workers in Texas higher education have not drawn a statewide raise since 2002. But we did not delve into this aspect of government for this article. There is no central repository of pay-raise data for higher education.

We probed instead whether general state agency employees had no raises from 2009 to 2012. Over the three years, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the agencies employed about 182,000 workers or more in those years.

By phone, union spokesman Seth Hutchinson said employees last fielded an across-the-board raise in 2008; the 2007 Legislature budgeted consecutive raises of $50 a month or 2 percent, whichever was larger, first in September 2007 and again in September 2008, actions we confirmed in a May 26, 2007, Austin American-Statesman news article.

Hutchinson said the 2009 Legislature gave most employees a one-time $800 bonus, described by some as a retention payment. He said targeted raises were approved for certain employees with law enforcement or prison jobs. According to a June 10, 2009, Statesman news article, correctional workers fielded a 7 percent raise spread over two years and state law enforcement officers fielded raises averaging 7 percent to 8 percent over two years. By phone, Ray Hymel, a lobbyist who represents the Texas Public Employees Association, estimated that more than 34,000 state workers landed these pay raises.

Hutchinson said the revenue-strapped 2011 Legislature did not approve pay raises; we found no news stories contradicting that.

So, there have been no across-the-board increases for state workers since September 2008. In contrast, most workers drew $800 bonuses from the 2009 Legislature, which otherwise awarded raises to a subset of workers.

We wondered how many workers drew increases in pay thanks to merit raises doled out by agency chiefs. Hutchinson replied: "Many employees never receive merit raises," a conclusion he attributed to conversations with union members.

We asked the state comptroller’s office if it could break down merit pay raises from 2009 through 2011. Spokesman R.J. DeSilva emailed us charts indicating the prevalence of three actions leading to higher pay for employees of about 110 agencies, though he said 10 agencies do not enter payroll information with the comptroller’s office in a way that would enable a check of their pay hike.

The comptroller’s research indicates:

--In 2009, 21,996 of 184,754 employees had merit raises, 29,102 workers were promoted and 3,443 workers saw equity pay adjustments.

--In 2010, 13,517 of 187,944 employees fielded merit raises, while 25,489 employees were promoted and 3,826 workers experienced pay adjustments for equity.

--In 2011, 8,860 of 186,549 employees got merit raises, 22,488 workers were promoted and 5,213 saw equity pay increases.

At first pass, this research indicates that in 2009, 30 percent of workers in the checked agencies got a raise in some fashion, while in 2010 and 2011, no more than 23 percent of the workers got a raise. It’s possible, we suppose, that each year, at least 70 percent of workers saw no raise--though that is without considering the law enforcement/criminal justice personnel who fielded legislated raises.

Then again, might it be that different subsets of workers drew merit raises each of the three years so that one might speculate that some 60 percent of workers got a raise sometime in the three years?

Hutchinson suggested another way to break down the comptroller’s results, noting by email that the results could be taken as indicating that just 14 percent of workers fielded merit or equity raises in 2009 and smaller clutches got such raises in 2010 and 2011. His view: It’s not accurate to count promotions as raises considering they involve changes in position and responsibilities with pay implications.

Our ruling

The employees union says most state employees did not receive a raise from 2009 to 2012.

The last across-the-board raises took effect in 2008. Otherwise, lawmakers gave most employees a one-time, one-month bonus in 2009 and legislated consecutive raises for more than 34,000 other workers in 2009 and 2010.

But a bonus is not a raise. Meantime, it appears that no more than 14 percent of workers across most state agencies got a merit raise any of the three years. Even if one assumes, perhaps improbably, that a completely different set of workers got each year’s merit raises, less than half of agency workers would have gotten those pay bumps.

We rate this claim as True.