Indiana state workers have had good cause to wonder about their economic future lately. After all, workers in neighboring Ohio, Illinois and Michigan have been scrambling to preserve jobs, bargaining rights and pay. If state employees workers in Indiana haven’t been feeling the proverbial love, maybe that will soon change a bit.
Gov. Mitch Daniels spent much of Friday morning heaping heavy praise on 28,000 state workers for their role in keeping the Hoosier state in the black.
“I feel safe in saying there’s not a state in the nation where state employees are more committed to efficiency and care with tax dollars than Indiana,” Daniels said at a press conference in Indianapolis. “I just think it’s due some recognition.”
Daniels backed up his words with some cold, hard cash. Each state employee will receive a one-time bonus ranging from $500 to $1,000, depending on the employee’s performance. Daniels is calling these bonuses an “efficiency dividend.”
"As we close the fiscal year, your commitment to protecting Hoosier taxpayers while continuing to provide excellent customer service is evident and deserving of recognition under our pay for performance model," Daniels said. “Every day there are fresh reports, the catastrophe in Minnosota, the problems in Illinois that continue and many other states in this country. Indiana stands out because of our state employees.”
The bonuses will cost the state $15 million to $20 million. The money will come from the state’s $1.2 billion surplus, which was announced Thursday by Indiana State Auditor Tim Berry.
Indiana state employees received a small raise in January but had gone without one for the previous three years.
It’s unlikely that the good news for state workers will spill over into public spending in general. The state is not restoring cuts to other areas such as higher education and health care, which Democratic lawmakers have argued should receive more support.
Daniels said that’s not in the cards because the national economy continues to threaten the Hoosier state.
“We’re very, very glad of the reserves we have,” Daniels said. “Higher reserves will be useful because there’s a great big bill coming to the state attached to the Obama health care change. … It’s another good reason to have a little more money in the savings account.”