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State workers makes less than private sector but have better benefits, Utah lawmakers told

SALT LAKE CITY — State employees don't make as much money as their private sector counterparts but get more in benefits, Utah lawmakers were told Wednesday.

"We hear a lot about needing more money, we need to pay people more," Sen. Dan Hemmert, R-Orem, told the Government Operations Interim Committee. "The total compensation is actually not too far out whack with market."

Hemmert and State Auditor John Dougall presented to the committee a recent compensation study comparing state pay to private sector pay. Hemmert said the idea is to make better decisions about salary plans and benefits packages to attract and keep good workers.

"The goal of this, to be absolutely clear, is not to reduce anyone's pay, not necessarily to reduce anyone's benefits," he said.

Dougall said the state needs to come up with a compensation philosophy that includes employee retention, recruitment and skill development. Lawmakers intend to draft a bill for the Legislature to consider in 2019.

"We have lots of different agencies, lots of different employers. What may be good for one may be a challenge for another. One may have retention issues, one may have recruitment issues," he said.

Dougall said in his office, working fathers want more cash while working mothers want more leave time. He said there's no "sweet spot" where everyone is happy.

Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake City, said he welcomes opening "this can of worms." He said he hopes it doesn't turn into how to get more out of state workers for less.

"We're not paying, we're just not," he said, adding lawmakers also "gored" employee benefits some years ago.

Rep. Adam Robertson, R-Provo, said he'd like to see state salaries follow the general market because complaints about low pay would go away.