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‘Why should we be any different?’

Here's a link to my full story in today's Spokesman-Review on why the governor and other top state officials can't reject their scheduled pay raises. It stretches back to a state constitutional requirement aimed at preventing partisan politicians from eliminating salaries for their political opponents, essentially undermining their election by the people. Rep. Darrell Bolz, R-Caldwell, vice chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, requested the Attorney General's opinion to address a series of questions about options for the Legislature and its joint budget committee in dealing with pay issues this year, and how constitutional restrictions impact that. "When economic times are tough, I was just thinking elected officials shouldn't be held to a different standard than anyone else," Bolz said. "If you're asking that all these people who work for the state be held to no pay raise, why should we be any different?" Bolz said he was mainly focused on legislative pay, and was surprised to learn statewide elected officials couldn't reject raises. "It's kind of a unique situation, but that's what the Constitution says," he said.

State Superintendent of Schools Tom Luna, who like Gov. Butch Otter had planned to reject his own pay increase this year but now is being told he legally can't, said he hopes the Legislature will act this year to change the system, though a constitutional amendment also would need a vote of the people at the next election to take effect. "I think when we're looking at the toughest economic times that we've seen in our lifetime, that this is not the time for politicians to be getting a pay increase," he said, "when just about everyone else that we know is either being laid off or furloughed or at best their pay is frozen, and that's inside government and outside government." 

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Eye On Boise

News, happenings and more from the Idaho Legislature and the state capital.