Candidates both back merit system

By BETH CRACE State Journal Staff Writer Published:

Cheaper health insurance. Restoring annual 5 percent pay increases. Protecting the state merit system. Avoiding lay-offs.

These are the concerns dominating state employees' minds as they prepare for a new administration. The next governor will have to deal with bleak budget forecast, but neither candidate has said he plans broad lay-offs of government workers.

But that doesn't mean state workers aren't concerned.

"As a state government worker, I saw many administration changes," said Jim True, who retired from state government after 31 years. "At the very best, it was a time of great apprehension."

True introduced Republican gubernatorial candidate Ernie Fletcher, who met with state employees on Wednesday at the Capitol, to assure he doesn't intend to change the merit system or the state's retirement system.

"I can assure you, we want to work with state employees," said Fletcher. "The challenges we face as a state can only be helped by pulling together."

Fletcher said he thinks he can solve the state budget problems without laying off workers. As the state's budget problems are fixed, Fletcher said, he would like to return to annual 5 percent pay increases for state employees.

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