RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – Thursday was a significant day for state workers. First Governor Bob McDonnell announced the state would increase its contribution to the retirement system, then came the surprising news employees could see a 3%, one-time, performance-based bonus.
The town hall was dubbed an intimate conversation with the governor. 1200 people asked to be there; only thirty state employees were picked. Those workers had some tough questions for the head of the Commonwealth.
They came from near and far. All five regions and dozens of state departments were represented. Governor Bob McDonnell had realistic expectations for their conversation and his tenure as Virginia's leader.
"Not every decision in the budget is going to be a cause for celebration," he told them.
While Thursday's announcement about the Virginia Retirement System got some cheers, employees like Kathy Nemeth are waiting for the other shoe to drop.
"Should we brace ourselves for another out of pocket contribution and if so what is being done to offset it because basically it is a decrease in pay?" she asked.
But, the governor's crystal ball doesn't show that far down the road. It also couldn't answer Kathy Taylor's question about healthcare.
"We're wondering what sort of impact you may foresee with all the federal regulations that are put out there on the table," she wondered.
While lawsuits are pending, McDonnell is choosing to focus on what he can control on that front, which includes incentivizing employees to live healthier lives.
Others, though, wanted to focus on outside contractors.
"Why not utilize and maximize the wealth of talent that we have within our own agency rather than bring somebody in from the outside," asked Terrence Hackett.
"The idea I think originally is either 1) we didn't have the expertise or 2) we thought it was cheaper to contract it out," McDonnell explained. "Other than that we shouldn't be doing it."
We can expect some of these issues to be priorities during the General Assembly session.
For those who couldn't watch, video of the entire town hall meeting will be posted on the governor's YouTube site.