While most Louisianans prefer cuts in government spending to raising taxes, state employees have come to regard a yearly 4% pay increase as an entitlement. Fortunately, state officials have recently pushed for a merit-based system which would determine pay increases on a sliding scale. This is long overdue.

A recent study, prepared by the department for the House and Senate Committees on Governmental Affairs, said that “state agencies rated 57,882 classified employees in the fiscal year and 98.4 percent of them – or 56,974 – were graded worthy of a 4 percent merit pay raise.”

Under the current system, mediocre and outstanding employees both receive the same pay increase. Statistics demonstrate that “only eight of the 57,882 classified workers rated between July 1, 2008 and June 30, 2009, were given a poor rating while 419 were rated as needing improvement. Another 27,624 were categorized as exceeding expectations, and 8,052 were labeled “outstanding.” The remaining 21,779 workers were categorized as average. Yet only 1,578 employees in total were denied raises.

There is no point in rewarding mediocrity, particularly with taxpayer money. A merit-based pay system would increase productivity, accountability, and responsibility while sparing taxpayers the burden of rewarding poor performance in the face of a growing budget deficit.