Pay raises on the table for hundreds of state employees

PROVIDENCE – The R.I. Department of Administration held a public hearing Wednesday to introduce proposed salary increases for certain Cabinet level officials and agency heads, as well as changes to pay grades for hundreds of classified employees over a cross section of state agencies, representing 3% of all state workers.

After the administration sends these proposals to the General Assembly, there will be a 30-day window before they go into effect, unless rejected by both the House and Senate.

Statewide vacancy levels are currently running at 11%, said DOA spokesperson Laura Hart. As for the Cabinet proposals, they are part of a tiered two-year process the administration hopes will bring state salary levels in line with regional neighbors.

If approved, the upgraded Cabinet salaries will be a “halfway mark” between fiscal year 2022 salaries and the target salaries proposed by Gov. Daniel J. McKee in September, Hart said. State law limits changes to cabinet salaries to once annually.

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“In 2022, the Department of Administration in conjunction with the Governor’s Office identified target salaries for each Cabinet position, based on a salary analysis of similar government positions throughout southern New England and the nation,” Hart said. “Rather than move current salaries to their identified targets in a single increase, the state chose a fiscally responsible, incremental approach where Cabinet salary increases would occur over time until those target salaries were reached.”

Hart said the strategy would place Rhode Island on a path to “attract and retain the best candidates for these positions of high skill and responsibility.”

Wednesday’s hearing, which was accessible via Zoom, included no public testimony from anyone unsupportive of the pay increases. All of the commentary came from state employees and union members who welcomed the news, though some said compensation for mid-level employees was still inadequate.

R.I. Department of Children, Youth and Families senior legal counsel Misty Delgado said the agency has lost seven staff attorneys since 2021 and has reposted job openings multiple times with no responses.

“We are not paid nearly enough,” she said.

Hart said that the increases in employee classifications would cost $1.5 million and that DOA is embarking on another classification study across all of state government to determine if salaries not included in this round should be amended.

“Compensation changes are based on analyses of similar roles [between] Rhode Island state government and other state governments,” she said. “[These] are necessary to remain competitive in the current marketplace, to support recruitment and retention, and to support pay equity across government agencies.”

Proposed 2023 base pay increases for Cabinet officials:

  • Director, Department of Administration: from $175,368 to $180,184.
  • Director, R.I. Department of Behavioral Healthcare, Developmental Disabilities and Hospitals: from $160,473 to $170,237.
  • Director, R.I. Department of Business Regulation: from $160,473 to $162,737.
  • Director, R.I. Department of Corrections: from $149,015 to $169,508.
  • Director, Department of Children, Youth and Families: from $135,000 to $162,500.
  • Director, R.I. Department of Environmental Management: from $160,473 to $162,737.
  • Secretary, R.I. Executive Office of Health and Human Services: from $175,368 to $182,684.
  • Director, R.I. Department of Health: from $150,765 to $175,383.
  • Director, R.I. Department of Labor and Training: from $166,918 to $168,459.
  • Director, R.I. Department of Revenue: from $138,375 to $159,188.
  • Director, R.I. Department of Transportation: from $175,368 to $182,684.
  • R.I. State Police superintendent and director of the R.I. Department of Public Safety: from $166,918 to $180,959.

Christopher Allen is a PBN staff writer. You may contact him at Allen@PBN.com. 

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