Representatives of public employee groups say they're puzzled by Gov. Kenny Guinn's statement that state workers, teachers and university faculty probably won't get any pay raises for six to eight years.
Guinn, in his last 3 1/2 years in office because of term limits, will submit only one more budget to the Legislature, in 2005.
The Republican governor said at a press conference last week that"it's going to be a long spell before state employees, school district employees and university people get another raise ... I would say six to eight years without a doubt. These are difficult times."
"I'm puzzled by that,"said Jim Richardson, lobbyist for the Nevada Faculty Alliance, which represents professors and faculty members in the University and Community College System.
Richardson agreed with Terry Hickman, president of the Nevada State Education Association, and Scott MacKenzie, executive director of the State of Nevada Employee Association, that cost-of-living raises will be needed to keep employees even.
Hickman said he thought the governor was disappointed that he didn't get a broad-based business tax that would grow with the economy. He added that raises are needed to match inflation.
Hickman also said the Legislature worked hard to keep public education as a priority. But he said,"We can't do zero. It digs a bigger hole."
State workers and teachers get cost of living raises when authorized by the state. They can get other raises if they're promoted or bumped up to the next step on the pay scale.
But some longtime teachers are at the top of their scale and don't qualify for step increases, Hickman said. They won't get a pay raise unless there is a general increase.
Guinn didn't include money in his 2003 budget for pay increases for state workers and educators. But lawmakers found enough to give 2 percent increases effective July 2004.
MacKenzie said the 2 percent raise next year doesn't cover the increased cost of retirement and health care insurance premiums that are facing state workers.
Workers in cities and counties are already 25 percent ahead of state workers in pay, MacKenzie added.