Governor unveils public employee pension reform

February 16, 2012

A House committee will hear a proposal by Governor Brewer’s office to overhaul how state workers are hired and fired.  As KJZZ’s Paul Atkinson reports from Phoenix, the bill would also do away with overtime for most state employees.

Most state workers enjoy certain civil service protections against unwarranted disciplinary actions or termination. That status is called “covered.”  Under Governor Brewer’s plan, the 36,000 state workers who are covered can opt out of the system.  In exchange for a 5 percent raise, they would agree to be “at will” employees that can be fired without review by a personnel board.  Any promotion would also require state workers becoming “at will.”  Governor Brewer spokesman Matt Benson says any new state hires would not be covered employees.

“The intent is to make the state workforce more nimble, more agile,” Benson said. “To give the state supervisors more flexibility to reward and to discipline the workforce as they need to.”

Benson says under the Governor’s plan, all supervisors, attorneys, IT professionals, and other higher paid state employees would become “at will.”  He says that status change would allow the state to pay more to keep highly skilled workers.  But Sherry Van Horsen, president of a state employee union, says Arizona had an “at will” system that was changed because of the problems it created.

“That’s where we differ from the private sector. Their bosses aren’t elected,” Van Horsen said.  “They don’t have to worry about political corruption, cronyism, or pressure on the job site the way a public employee would if they lost their covered status.”

The Governor’s pension reform plan would also eliminate overtime for all state employees expect for law enforcement, parole and corrections officers.  If approved by the legislature, the personnel system changes would take effect this fall. 

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