"An Act amending the State Personnel Act to place in the exempt service pharmacists and physicians employed in the Department of Health and Social Services or in the Department of Corrections. "
"HB 485 has been introduced to provide a means for the state to be competitive when recruiting and retaining these vital positions."
- Rep. Rokeberg
At the request of the Departments of Health and Social Services and Revenue, House Bill 485 has been introduced for consideration. This bill proposing moving two highly professional employees, licensed pharmacists and corporate income tax forensic auditors, into the exempt service in order to more quickly respond to salary and recruitment issues surrounding these positions.
Pharmacists are essential to provision of safe and cost-effective medication services, required by state law, but are virtually impossible to recruit under the currently authorized state pay scale limitations.
Within the Department of Health and Social Services pharmacists assure that medications are appropriately dispensed and managed for clinical therapy and treatment provided through the Alaska Pioneer Homes, Alaska Psychiatric Institute, and for people served under the Medicaid program. Clinical functions of department pharmacists include education and consultation to nursing staff and clients, regular review and management of resident and client medications, drug utilization review, pharmacy policies and procedures, safe medication management services, and for assuring timely and cost-effective access to needed medications.
The Department of Health and Social Services has a long and well-documented history of extreme difficulty for recruitment of pharmacists. For example, there were no pharmacist applicants for a position recruited in April, June, and September of 2005. For eight months of fiscal year 2005 the Pioneer Home Pharmacy had only one pharmacist to fill three pharmacist positions - the other two pharmacists had found private sector jobs that paid twice as much per hour. A local market survey showed that non-state employers are paying twice the pharmacist pay offered by the state, augmented with hiring bonuses of up to $35,000 for a three-year commitment. The federal government is paying wages that are competitive with the private sector; also offering signing bonuses and forgiveness of student loans. Nationally, the same is true as shown by pharmacist recruitment letters and advertising in national publications.
After careful consideration of this information the Department of Health and Social Services received permission to hire non-permanent exempt pharmacists on an emergency basis providing the ability to immediately offer a competitive wage and fill the two vacant positions on a temporary basis. The ability to be competitive in recruitment and retention of pharmacists requires that the state have the flexibility afforded by providing exempt status for pharmacists.
The Department of Corrections also has a pharmacist position that is difficult to fill and keep staffed. A few years ago, Corrections lost a long-term pharmacist who was offered another job at a higher rate of pay than the State position. Corrections recruited in state and received no applicants so the application process was extended. After two months, a total of three applications were interviewed. One was hired; however, that person resigned approximately seven months later. The position was again posted in and out of state. After six weeks, there were two out-of-state applicants and no in-state applicants. A job offer was made and the applicant moved to Alaska with DOC paying $3,000 of moving expenses. This current employee has received job offers from private industry and will be leaving state employment unless the state can offer a significant salary increase.
Corporate Income Tax Forensic Auditors
Experienced auditors are utilized to audit corporate income taxes of multi-national companies doing business in Alaska. These audits have grown more complex in recent years due to the use of off-shore companies and tax shelters. Concurrently, the supply of experienced auditors has dwindled because of high demand, the genesis of which was the Enron situation and resulting tightening of accounting rules by the Securities and Exchange Commission. As a result, market salaries of accountants and auditors have increased tremendously.
Over the last several years, the Tax Division of the Department of Revenue has had a demonstrated failure of recruitment efforts, despite efforts to recruit out of state, as well as within Alaska. The department's corporate income tax audit staff has been reduced from ten auditors to two. This threatens the department's ability to collect corporate income tax revenues.
The Department of Revenue conducted a study of auditor salaries which showed that State salaries for experienced income tax auditors is from $40,000 to $68,000 below comparable federal jobs.
HB 485 has been introduced to provide a means for the state to be competitive when recruiting and retaining these vital positions.
Your support of this legislation would be appreciated.