Maryland acting Gov. Blair Lee III said today he will offer a new $34 million pay package to state employees next year that would boost salaries and fringe benefits 5 per cent.
Most of the increase would be the result of new fringe benefits, including a bonus program for workers who have hit their pay levels, an optical plan and more generous health care insurance.
The package Lee said would be included in his budget request for next year will call for a 2 per cent rise in salaries for the state's 60,000 employees. Last year, they recieved a 5 per cent straight pay raise.
At his weekly press conference, Lee also said he will ask the Board of Public works Friday to approve the spending of $50,000 from the state's emergency fund to buy 800 bullet-proof vests for the State Police.
The acting governor said he decided to seek emergency funds for the vest after Trooper Gregg A. Presbury was critically wounded during a shoot out on Rte. 3 near Glen Burnie on Monday.
More than $20 million of the pay package proposed by Lee for state employee, would go for new benefits. Lee said the benefits would be equivalent to an extra 3 per cent pay rise.
The more expensive new benefit would result from an increase in the state's share of an employee's health insurance from 80 to 90 per cent. The increase would amount to about $8.5 million a year.
Another $7.6 million chunk would be absorbed by annual bonuses ranging from $250 to $1,000 for workers who have reached their maximum salary levels.
The bonuses would rise as the employees, known as "dead-enders", reach higher annual plateaus. For example, the average state employee, who earns $14,000 a year, would get an extra $350 a year after 10 years of service, $510 a year after 15 years and $670 a year after 20 years.
Lee's proposal also calls for a vision care program entitling each worker and his family a free examination and one pair of lenses and frames every 2 year.
Employees would also be entitled to buy all presecription drugs for $2 under the pay package, which Lee worked out after several meetings with representatives of two state employee unions.
Dennis Gring, a spokesman for Maryland Classified Employees Association, said his members are happy with the fringe benefit proposals but dissatisfied with Lee's pay proposal.
"We've got a way to go on the pay," he said. "There's plenty room for more."
Lee said the bulletproof vests he will seek permission to buy could help spare the lives of state police officers.
Although he planned to include the appropriation in his budget request for next year, Lee said, he decided to try to speed up the process at the urging of the Fraternal Order of Police.