Analysis: State spent $9.7M on bonuses, pay increases to state workers

The payments went to 4,638 workers
Posted at 12:54 PM, Aug 28, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-28 13:54:19-04
MADISON -- The state of Wisconsin paid an estimated $9.7 million in one-time bonuses or various pay increases for state workers in fiscal year 2016.
An analysis by the Wisconsin State Journal that was published Sunday found the payments went to 4,638 workers, roughly 15 percent of the state's workforce.
The newspaper analyzed merit-based bonuses, as well as payments that were meant to retain employees or make their salaries equitable to their private sector peers. The average base pay raise was 5.5 percent and the average lump sum bonus was $1,721.
The amount is more than double what was given out in fiscal year 2015, when Gov. Scott Walker suspended payments as the state faced a $238 million budget shortfall.
The majority of the payments went to workers in the departments of Transportation, Corrections and Natural Resources. Fiscal year 2016 was the first year in which University of Wisconsin System employees were not part of the state's civil service system, so those pay bonuses or increases were not part of the analysis.
State workers aren't guaranteed a raise each year, and merit programs have been a point of contention with unions because bonuses are often given as one-time payments, instead of increases in base salaries. Rick Badger, executive director of state employee union AFSCME Council 32, said the raise and bonus system is unpredictable and unfair because it relies on supervisors to choose who will get bonuses.
Two-thirds of the payments for the year ended June 30, 2016, came as lump sum bonuses rather than increases in base pay.
Department of Administration spokesman Steven Michels said 73 percent of the raises or bonuses granted in the last two fiscal years were based on an employee's job performance. Twenty-seven percent went toward increasing employees' salaries to match their peers in the private sector.