Utah has historically had one of the largest gender wage gaps in the country, but a bill that would’ve researched wage disparities among state employees faced a chilly reception from male lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
Sen. Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake, wants to commission a study to examine any pay disparities among the state’s 22,000 employees.
The Department of Human Resource Management already collects this salary information for the state’s 28 agencies. Escamilla’s bill proposed spending $125,000 on an independent study to analyze the data.
“I think it’s important to have this tool, this extra tool in our toolbox as we move forward with policies that may be related to wages and any disparity related to women," she told the Senate Business and Labor Committee on Tuesday.
But some members of the committee seemed skeptical, peppering Escamilla with questions on the purpose and cost of the study.
“I’m still concerned about the fiscal note on this bill,” said Sen. Curt Bramble, the Provo Republican who chairs the committee.
“To me, it still appears to be an interim study-type item,” said Sen. Dan Hemmert, R-Orem.
Before Escamilla’s bill got to a vote, Sen. Don Ipson, R-St. George, interjected with a motion to adjourn. That's a procedural move that effectively ends debate on an issue.
Escamilla, a Democrat, said she knew the bill could be an uphill battle in the predominantly Republican, male-led Legislature.
“There may be some ideological and fundamental problems,” she said. “I’m not going to lie, it’s not going to be an easy task. We haven’t done anything related to the wage gap, not that I recall, in the last 10 sessions.”
Escamilla plans to bring the bill back to the committee before the end of the session.