House, Senate Lawmakers Call to Reject Compensation Commission Salary Report

DOVER – As Delaware faces a large budget shortfall, Republican and Democratic leaders from both chambers on Wednesday filed legislation to reject the pay raises included in the Delaware Compensation Commission’s quadrennial salary report.

The Compensation Commission is required by state law to review salaries against national and regional pay for corresponding officials and make recommendations for pay increases every four years. The panel finished its work on Monday and sent the General Assembly its report.

House Joint Resolution 2, which is sponsored by more than 50 of the 62 legislators in the House and Senate, would outright reject the commission’s report. By state law, the General Assembly must reject the report in its entirety within 30 days or the proposed raises automatically go into effect.

House Speaker Pete Schwartzkopf said it would be wrong to issue such raises to select employees while the state has an uncertain financial future. The proposed raises would go into effect for fiscal 2018 if not rejected.

“While I understand how important it is to attract and retain a talented workforce, issuing raises to select state officials is absolutely the wrong thing to do at this time,” Rep. Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach said. “It is unfair to the many hardworking state employees who have continually done more with fewer resources and have not seen the raises they deserve. The Joint Finance Committee should be the forum to discuss pay raises to state workers.

“The General Assembly should reject the commission’s report in its entirety, and I expect us to take action quickly.”

House Minority Leader Danny Short said lawmakers must act responsibly.

“We’re presently looking at a state operating budget shortfall of more than $350 million for the upcoming fiscal year,” said State House Minority Leader Danny Short, R-Seaford. 

“The commission did the job they were mandated to do.  Now we must act responsibly and set aside those recommendations.  This is a good first step in the bipartisan action we’ll need to close the expected budget gap.”

Across the hall, Senate President Pro Tempore David B. McBride said that lawmakers took their post to put the interests of the public over their own.

“No one forced us to take these jobs. We sought them out,” said Sen. McBride, D-Hawk’s Nest. “Everyone in this Chamber swore an oath to place the public interest above their personal interests. We need to honor that promise. We came here to serve, and the idea of handing out raises to people who don’t need them is frankly offensive in this budget environment.”

Addressing the budget deficit needs to be a priority, not increasing salaries, said Senate Minority Leader Gary Simpson.

“Now is not the time for us to be increasing salaries, while we face a $350 million budget deficit,” said Sen. Simpson, R-Milford. “While we need to make public service attractive for our best and brightest, we have a lot of heavy lifting to do to get our budget in order first.”

Since the creation of the Compensation Commission in 1984, the report has been rejected twice – in 1993 and 2013. In 2005, the recommended raises ranged from 9 to 20 percent. In 2009, the commission acknowledged the downturn in the economy and recommended no raises for any officials.