Maryland Gov. Harry R. Hughes today proposed a 7 percent pay raise for most state employes and higher increases -- most in the 15 percent range -- for selected workers, including hundreds of judges, lawyers and top-level executives.
Employe groups -- including one seeking at 13.6 percent across-the-board raise -- immediately denounced the proposed and began planning their strategy to pressure the state into providing higher raises to counter the inflation rate.
Noting that the inflation rate is higher than 12 percent this year, a representative of the state's largest employe group said, "There's no way people can make it on this," referring to the 7 percent raise.
But Hughes called his proposal, which would cost the state more than $85 million, a "significant increase, the highest [state employes have received] in eight or nine years."
Last year employes received a 6 percent increase.
Hughes' proposal must be approved by the General Assembly, which has the power to cut -- but not to increase -- the size of the raises.
Although the vast majority of the state's 80,000 workers would receive the 7 percent raise, the group of about 6,000 employes is slated for higher increases under a special salary review plan.
Highway workers and institutional workers, such as housekeepers and stock clerks, are the biggest bloc in this group and would receive total raises of about 13 to 15 percent.
But the group also includes hundreds of state lawyers, prosecutors and public defenders, judges, college administrators and two of Hughes' cabinet officials.
The salaries of 74 circuit court judges, who are assigned to counties, would be increased about 15 percent, from $45,500 to $52,430, under Hughes' proposal. Appellate and district court judges' salaries would also be increased under the proposal.
Increases for the state's 212 judges have been sought for more than a year by a special commission of the Maryland State Bar Association, which argued that "many of (the judges) made substantial financial sacrifices when they agreed to abandon the more lucrative private practice of law to become judges."
The secretary of budget and fiscal planning, Thomas W. Schmidt, and the secretary of human resources, Kalman R. Hettleman, would receive 13 percent increase, making their annual salaries $55,105 each. Administration sources said these two salaries are being targeted for an increase because of the demand and complexities of the two jobs.
More than 150 members of the state Attorney General's office would receive increases, most of them around 15 percent.
Although the bulk of these special increases are in the 15 percent range, a few run far higher. For instance, one assistant in the administrative office of the courts would receive approximately a 34 percent increase.
Hughes said the "annual salary review" increases were proposed to resolve inequities within state government and to solve recruitment problems caused because state salaries sometimes run below private sector salaries.
Angered by the 7 percent across-the-board proposal, Stephen Diamond, executive director of the Maryland Classified Employees Association, said the state could afford higher raises because of an expected $229 million surplus from this year's budget.
But Hughes said there were other demands on the surplus, including proposals for increased aid to education, increased welfare payments and the threatened loss of $44 million in federal revenue-sharing funds.