Mississippi 's 31,000 state employees will soon see their first raise in three and a half years. But there's no guarantee the pay increases will keep coming. The state risks losing thousands of valuable workers.
State employees lobbied hard at the capitol in February, and it paid off. Their salaries are going up about seven percent. For some it's the first substantial pay raise in six years.
"I believe it's going to do a lot to retain these people and also attract some new people," said John Mulholland.
State Personnel Board deputy director John Mulholland says Mississippi is now losing about 5,500 state employees each year. There were 1,600 more state employees this time last year. As they take off to better paying jobs, there will be some positions that are harder to replace than others.
At the state health lab, laboratory workers are specially trained to do clinical and environment testing. But even with the raise, some employees tell WLBT they could go across the street to UMC and make 10 thousand dollars a year more. The state relies on good benefit packages to try to level the playing field with those jobs in the private sector.
"The private sector is always going to be competition, but on the same token, we don't want to see our public workers' benefits packages attacked to eliminate compensation," said Brenda Scott.
Scott, who represents state employees, wants to see a multi-year commitment from lawmakers, ensuring employees they will get, at the minimum, a cost of living adjustment each year. But the Personnel Board supports a year-to-year approach seeking raises.
"I want to see employees be compensated the way they should. I'm not saying we need a long term plan, but we need to look at it every year like we do," added Mulholland.
And for state employees, that means another year ahead lobbying at the capitol, if they find that this year's raise still isn't enough. State employees will begin seeing the first half of their raises July first. They'll receive the full amount beginning January first.