Here’s how House Appropriations Chair Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, described HB 409, the bill to put $70 million into the state’s rainy-day fund, also called the budget stabilization fund: “We’re finally to the point where we can stop robbing and start putting something back.”
Her opening debate on the House floor in favor of the bill was so persuasive that no one else got up to debate, and the bill passed, 68-1. The only one to vote “no” was Rep. Bob Schaefer, R-Nampa, who wanted some of that money to go to state employees.
“I don’t have a problem with putting money into the rainy-day fund,” he said after the vote. But Schaefer, who co-chaired an interim committee that studied the state’s employee compensation system and recommended big changes, said the state’s way behind on what it should be paying state workers, especially in certain job categories. Schaefer noted that he also didn’t vote for the 3 percent merit raises that were signed into law today, though he didn’t vote against them; like seven other House members, he missed the vote. (That’s generally called “taking a walk.”) “It’s not enough,” Schaefer said. “We should be at least at 4 percent, should maybe have 5.” He said he’s preparing legislation to add another 2 percent in raises in the new fiscal year that starts July 1.
Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.
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