Nebraska governor freezes pay of top managers

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LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — About 230 Nebraska state government directors and managers who report to Gov. Dave Heineman won’t get raises next fiscal year, and thousands more employees could have their pay frozen if the governor gets his way.

Heineman announced the pay freeze for the directors and managers of so-called code agencies Tuesday. A letter from union officials shows he asked nearly 11,000 union employees to forgo a planned, 2.5 percent pay increase that is supposed to take effect in July, the beginning of the next fiscal year.

If the union accepts that proposal, about 2,900 lower and middle managers not covered by union contracts also would have their pay frozen. Freezing the wages of those managers and union workers could save the state $10 million next fiscal year.

Heineman’s office didn’t know how much freezing the pay of the 230 managers and directors would save.

“In these challenging economic times, I believe that it is important for us to lead by example,” he said in a statement announcing the pay freeze that will go into effect for nonunion employees.

The director of the employee union said Heineman’s request will be seriously considered.

“We’re not saying no right off the bat,” Julie Dake Abel said. “We do understand there are some financial concerns with the state.”

The state would probably have to meet certain conditions for the union to accept the proposal, including no or minimal layoffs of state employees and keeping health care premiums down, she said.

Heineman’s request for pay freezes comes as the state continues to struggle with its budget.

While lawmakers in November slashed $334 million from the current, two-year state budget to stay out of the red, state revenues in December fell far below projections, leading to fresh concerns the problems aren’t over.

Also, fiscal analysts say state government may have to close a $640 million budget gap projected for the next two-year budget cycle that begins in July 2011.

Heineman’s request comes on the heels of an announcement last week from him and the state’s five other constitutional officers elected during statewide votes that they don’t want pay raises for the next four years.

Lawmakers also have indicated they will freeze the salaries of all employees in the legislative branch for one year, beginning in July.


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