Bill would give univ. employees bonus program

By Beth Silver

Arizona Daily Wildcat

PHOENIX State lawmakers are moving a bill through the Legislature to give university employees bonuses for good work.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. John Huppenthal, R-Chandler, would pay employees up to $100 per month as an incentive to work more efficiently.

But there is no state funding for the bonuses. Arizona's three universities would have to find the money through vacancy savings or other cost-cutting measures.

How much the universities would spend on bonuses and who would get them would be up to the institutions.

"Most of the agencies I'm sure can squeeze a little out of paper clips to fund this," said Rep. Joe Hart, R-Kingman, House Universities Committee chairman.

Rep. Marion Pickens, D-Tucson, said she worried the program would not work without earmarked funding.

"Employees will buy into this and then the bonus won't be there," she said. "I would like to see a more definite funding source. It's just too iffy right now."

There currently are no merit-based pay increases offered at the universities.

Suzanne Pfister, Arizona Board of Regents spokeswoman, said the universities have an annual performance evaluation that would serve as a means of administering the bonuses.

Using money from savings on vacant positions would work because the universities cannot use the money for anything besides hiring temporary workers, Pfister said.

A similar bill that established a pilot program for other state agencies has been in place for two years.

Huppenthal testified in a committee hearing yesterday that worker productivity has increased in the Department of Economic Security where employees have received $60,000 in bonuses.

Mike Goldwater, Registrar of Contractors director, said in the last two years his employees have received $12,000. Thirty employees got bonuses during that time at up to $60 a month.

"It's not a tremendous amount, but if you view the low wages the government pays anyway, it is an incentive," he said in the hearing.

He said he did not ask the employees to work more for the extra pay. Money from position vacancies was used.

The university bill passed the House Public Institutions and Universities Committee with nine votes for it and Pickens' vote against it.

It passed the full Senate last month 27-3. It is scheduled to be heard by the full House later this month.

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