For the last two years, Prince George's County Executive Larry Hogan has refused to grant county workers raises of more than 5 percent, citing a need to keep down government costs. Today, as it turns out, all elected officials in the county -- including Hogan -- are getting 9.1 percent raises.
"I didn't know anything about it," Hogan shrugged yesterday, referring to his new $5,000 raise, which brings his salary to $60,838 a year.
The raise represents 75 percent of the federally determined annual consumer price index, a formula incorporated in legislation adopted by the County Council in 1974, when Hogan still was working as a lawyer, Hogan's predecessor as county executive, Winfield M. Kelly Jr., chose not to accept his cost-of-living raises. Two years ago, he returned four years' worth of his raises to the county treasury.
Hogan does not think much of Kelly's generosity. "Of course I'm going to accept it," Hogan said of the raise.
Union officials said Hogan probably needs the cost-of-living increase -- but union members need it, too.
"What's good for the goose is good for the gander," said Laney Hester, president of the county Fraternal Order of Police. "If prices are difficult for them in the stores, with their salaries, you can imagine what it is for us."
Average county police salaries are between $14,000 and $17,000. Police, like other county employes, also are entitled to receive "step increases" of from 3 to 5 percent each year -- and those increases were cited by a Hogan aide as making the raises of the employes and the officials comparable. These raises are awarded on merit -- an employe's supervisor must recommend the raise -- and are available only in an employe's initial years of service to the county government.
John Mann, director of the county's Personnel Department, said almost all employes who still are eligible for the annual merit raises received them. However, he said he did not know what percent of the county's 3,700 workers actually receive the merit raises in addition to cost-of-living increases. According to Hester, less than half of the 800 county police officers receive the department's 3 percent merit raise because merit raises are only given to officers who have worked for the county six years or less.
Paul Manner, another union leader, said in a burst of generosity, "from the position of whoever is in office, they [the elected officials] deserve that kind of increase. But county employes deserve the same kind of increase."
Manner, a leader of five locals of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employes, was one leader of the public employes' 11-day strike in the county last August. After the strike ended in September, the locals agreed to accept the 5 percent cost-of-living increase that Hogan had offered.
The way Manner Figures it, there would not be any more wage disputes, or any more marathon sessions at bargaining tables, if county employes' raises were based on the same cost-of-living formula that govern raises for the elected officials. "If our raises were predicated on cost-of-living factors, it would be an outside factor and we couldn't call Hogan a bad guy," Manner said. "Negotiations instead of taking a year and a half would take two days."
Ronald Milor, president of the county Professional Firefighters Association, was not one to begrudge county officials their raises. "With the cost of living the way it is, they probably deserve it, "Milor said. "But we deserve it too."
Firefighters, who did not go on strike in August, have been negotiating for a raise since July.
Under county law, the 11 county Council members also will receive cost-of-living raises of 9.1 percent. Their new salaries will be $26,034, an increase of more than $2,000 each.
Council member Gerard McDonough was pleased about his new raise, but said he worried that it would "work to the detriment of employes of Prince George's" by harming their "attitudes and morale."