Kansas lawmakers question short-term payments in heavily supported 24/7 state facilities payment initiative


TOPEKA – As state hospital and correctional officials tout a new compensation initiative aimed at a growing staff crisis in state facilities, some lawmakers are questioning the viability of temporary pay increases.

As part of Gov. Laura Kelly’s plan, state employees at the 24/7 Kansas Department of Corrections facilities, public hospitals under the Department of Aging and Disability Services and the veterans homes of the Kansas Commission Veterans Office would receive long-term and temporary compensation. increases. The initiative includes a permanent increase in base salary and temporary pay differentials – additional compensation for employees in the event of staff shortages.

KDOC Secretary Jeff Zmuda said the initiative could prove crucial at a time when shortages are reaching unprecedented levels. He said staff at the El Dorado and Lansing facilities had been working 12-hour shifts since the end of July. Over the first 23 weeks of the fiscal year, vacancies increased in 21 weeks.

“We have traditionally struggled to recruit and retain a workforce in corrections, but recently we have hit a tipping point and we are seeing vacancies at a level that I have not seen in my entire career, ”Zmuda told lawmakers on Monday of the legislative budget. Committee, chaired by Representative Troy Waymaster, R-Bunker Hill. “Fatigue and current compensation continued to contribute to the increase in the number of vacancies and uniform positions. “

As of December 13, the KDOC had 458 vacant uniformed officer positions and 68 non-uniform vacant positions in correctional facilities. States across the country are experiencing similar challenges in corrections, and some – like Nebraska, Florida and Arkansas – have implemented a compensation plan designed to address these shortages.

The main element of the Kansas initiative is a base salary increase for all KDOC job classes and nursing jobs. There will also be four additional temporary salary increases for 24/7 facility staff, KDOC security personnel at these facilities, 24/7 facility nurses and all staff working. in these facilities when personnel reach critical levels.

There will also be a one-time bonus of $ 3,500 for salaried staff at the KDOC, KDADS and KCVAO facilities 24/7. Base salary increases were phased in from November 28, after approval by the State Finance Council.

“With the temporary increases, this puts us in a good competitive position for new entry-level nurses right out of school with little experience compared to other health care employers in Greater Kansas City or the Canadian market. ‘It’s Kansas that we’re trying to recruit, ”said Scott Bruner, assistant secretary of hospitals and facilities for KDADS.

The total cost of the plan would be $ 30.3 million in 2022 and could cost around $ 60 million in 2023.

While lawmakers have supported the plan’s intention and the need for such action, some committee members on both sides of the aisle have expressed concerns about the temporary pay increases.

“I doubt that will ever go away, altogether, because it’s just hard to give someone such a big raise when you’re talking about 4, 5 or 6, even $ 8 an hour and they l ‘have it for a few months or a year and then it’s gone,’ said Rep. Kyle Hoffman, R-Coldwater. “I’m not saying it doesn’t need to be done, but to say it’s temporary may be a little misleading.”

“Is it clearly communicated to all employees that this has an impact, so there is no waiting? Said Representative Kathy Wolf Moore, D-Kansas City, Kansas. “Because the last thing we want to happen is the rug ripped out from under them.” “

Although the base salary increase was initiated with existing agency funds, ensuring that the rest is paid will require legislative budget cooperation.

Adam Proffitt, state budget director, said communication with facility managers was ongoing to ensure there was no confusion about temporary differential pay. He said the plan left room to reassess down the line.

“The base salary we estimated was justified and necessary, so we took swift action. It is now the new state market for salaries in these positions, ”Proffitt said. We didn’t want to have a wild swing and make all the other differentials permanent today, without knowing what the market is going to bring and what the staff levels are going to bring in six to 12 months.

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