State worker pay raises should be focus of next budget

“Investing in people, and in education in particular, is one of the state’s best economic development tools.”

During the early months of this year, we generally stood behind Gov. Dennis Daugaard as he pushed forward with a plan to slash the state’s budget to eliminate a $127 million structural deficit.

Though it pained many to do so, cuts were made across the board. While we won’t know the full effects of all the cuts until we see them in action, it seems that Daugaard’s plan worked.

Now, as he considers his fiscal year 2013 budget, we will begin to advocate for wise investment in the state.

That starts with salary increases for state workers, many of whom have not seen raises in three years.

State workers are no different from private sector employees, in terms of financial need and job satisfaction. As the cost of living continues to tick upward, state employees need to be compensated. Their earnings are also important to the flow of dollars in the South Dakota economy. We need residents injecting cash back into the economy.

Earlier this month, the South Dakota Board of Regents said salary increases for state workers should be the top priority for higher education in next year’s budget. Class sizes are growing, and strong faculty and staff are needed. In addition, competition is fierce for those qualified candidates; South Dakota’s public universities need to be in the game to attract top talent.

The need extends down to the local school systems. South Dakota school districts by and large have been able to meet the cuts outlined by Daugaard. Now it’s time to reward them for performance and service, on par with what the economy says they should earn.

Teachers’ work is often underappreciated. They are not just teaching but also disciplining, comforting and supporting the growth of the children in the community. Many teachers also spend their own money for classroom supplies. This needs to be recognized.

Investing in people, and in education in particular, is one of the state’s best economic development tools.

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