Sometimes you’ve got to wonder what Gov. Nikki Haley is thinking.
At a time when the state is facing a major budget cutbacks, Haley opted to give her staff hefty raises last week. We doubt that sits very well with other state employees who are finally getting a pay raise – of just 3 percent.
Those employees have faced pay freezes, layoffs, benefit cuts and the uncertainty that comes with major budget cuts.
We feel certain that the good people in Haley’s staff work hard and are quite capable. They also are paid more than most people, especially government workers. And her top staff already earns more than former Gov. Mark Sanford’s staff.
As usual, Haley justified the raises, which totaled about $29,000 in taxpayer dollars. Because she did not replace one of her staff members, she had extra money in her budget. State law only allows agencies to keep 10 percent of any surplus they have at the end of the year. The rest goes back to the state general fund.
So rather than return the money to the state, she passed out early Christmas gifts to four people on her staff.
Haley says those aides have taken on additional responsibilities as other employees have left and jobs shifted. She also points out that the total spent on salaries for the governor’s staff has actually decreased.
Most workers today have taken on more responsibility as businesses and governments tighten their belts. People are working harder and longer, many without additional compensation either for the added responsibilities or even just to keep up with inflation.
We don’t begrudge the salary increases. But, the message it sends is that her employees are more deserving than the thousands of other state government employees who received only a 3 percent raise, the same 3 percent Haley’s employees also received in addition to the bump she gave them.
A better message would be to return the money to the general fund and let it be used to serve the people of South Carolina.