Gov. Bruce Rauner’s long-standing idea to swap out guaranteed annual raises for state workers with a merit-based pay system has received more attention recently, thanks to the state's lottery program.
Tim McDevitt, acting director of the lottery, which introduced a merit-based system in 2011 and has paid more than $631,000 in employee bonuses over the past two years to dozens of Illinois Lottery employees for reaching sales targets and other goals, said that his program should be considered a model for how to successfully make the pay transition in other areas of state government.
The Associated Press reported that most of the 75 lottery employees who participated in the merit program received average bonuses of $5,243 in fiscal year 2015 and approximately $5,791 on average during fiscal 2016.
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Officials from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31, who have been locked in a bitter contract battle with Rauner's office for over a year, dismiss merit pay as an imperfect way of evaluating job performance that invites favoritism.
McDevitt’s view differs.
"First off, the employees love the system and then the system is really driving results. And, so, seeing that as somewhat (of) a pilot program for the state, it's now been in place for several years already at the lottery without anyone even realizing it," McDevitt said, adding that all state employees – regardless of their position – provide customer service and, as such, can be evaluated on their competency as a public servant.
"The state is a service organization," McDevitt said. "We don't produce a lot of goods, but what we do is provide a lot of services to taxpayers. These are service-type positions at the lottery, so I think that there are a lot of parallels. Even someone [who] answers a telephone, they still have a skill set related to that, and that skill set relates to the knowledge that they need to have, as well as their demeanor and responsiveness when they're relating to the taxpayer, who is the customer in that sense.
"For every state position, we have a job description that says, 'Here are the tasks that are performed for this job,' " McDevitt said.