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South Dakota state workers allege that lawmakers have conflicts of interest withholding pay

South Dakota state workers allege that lawmakers have conflicts of interest withholding pay

SIOUX FALLS, SD (Dakota News Now) – If you drive down almost any street in South Dakota, you’ll find businesses with help wanted signs, paying outrageous wages. But a group of state employees is concerned that state lawmakers are intentionally skimming their paychecks.

Among the lawmakers mentioned is Republican State Sen. John Wiik of Big Stone City, who made the comments during the appropriations committee meeting. Wiik lists his job in the legislative handbook as parts manager.

“So if I started losing mechanics with an in-state shop, you’d hear from me,” Wiik said.

This raises concerns about a conflict of interest for state employees, when a legislator, who also works outside of his Legislative duties, may have ulterior motives for keeping state employee compensation low.

Senator Jack Kolbeck is concerned that if that market changes, private sector pay would be reduced while state pay could be frozen. Kolbeck works for a distribution company in Sioux Falls.

“The government sector, that starting salary, will stay there. So, in the private sector, we will be competing against those salaries that are being paid at the government level,” said Kolbeck.

Senator Wiik, who did not present an opposition in the November 8 elections, wants to clarify what he said in the committee.

“That’s the point I was trying to make at that hearing, if we’re paying DOT mechanics $45 an hour, but then we’re using my tax dollars and my employees to take them out of my shop, and that’s where we start to run into problems,” Wii said.

Eric Olilla, director of the South Dakota State Employees Organization, said there has been continued frustration and issued a statement on the matter, “Governors and legislators must stop discrimination in mandatory compensation.”

What most agree is a great retirement package. The challenge, however, is hiring a worker and keeping them until retirement.

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Republican State Sen. Steven Haugaard has seen the change over the years, recalling decades of state and Minnehaha County workers.

“You prefer to have long-term employees who know their job and can provide customer service. But if we reduce state employee pay to the point where we see high turnover or lack of applications, that’s a real problem,” Haugaard said.

“I have been with the South Dakota State Employees Organization for 11 years now. During most of Governor Daugaard’s early years, state workers were mostly treated fairly, with cost-of-living adjustments to keep up with or above inflation and a fully funded program called “career banding” where they were working class workers. Compared to the seriously underwater private market, they saw additional raises that would give workers parity. All this changed in the last two years of Daugaard’s government, and it has gotten worse every year.

How did it get worse? Well, no more career banding; it was canceled so hard I have to keep reminding the same people over and over that it ever existed. And the Legislature itself gets special raises to keep up with every state house now, because the Legislature is not unreasonable enough to deal with state employee paychecks when private-sector revenues are increasing and state employee pay is less than inflation. And with the tacit approval of the governor, the Legislature also removed his employees from the general salary structure and gave them raises above what they have given almost all state employees.

And the Legislature’s Executive Committee recently approved their workers’ compensation proposal in Legislative Audit, which calls for special raises plus a new thing called a “parity raise” plus the governor’s recommended COLA to be included in the overall pay structure. They have deliberately created separate and unequal compensation for state workers. SDSEO believes that care, concern and respect should be given to all career state government employees, not behind the scenes or in special backroom deals, but in public, in the State Budget Address, in the State of the Union address, in testimony and everywhere else. And “equal pay” should be adopted across state government so that when new hires get a big raise, every job-grade employee gets the same raises. Governors and the Legislature must stop intentional compensation discrimination.

And what’s worse, we now have lawmakers, members of the Appropriations Committee, who are clearly saying that a deliberate reduction in state workers’ compensation is not only desirable, but their demand, and if their demands aren’t met, well, it’s up to them. imagination, threats and all. The slippery slope has been washed away and is now a waterway.’

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