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Eye On Boise

Tue., Jan. 19, 2010, 8 a.m.

JFAC members wrestle with H&W cuts

Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, asked Health & Welfare Director Dick Armstrong whether he'd considered cutting department employees' salaries and benefits. "Have you done an analysis for your department about salary reduction, and how that might save front-line services?" she asked. Armstrong said furloughs already reduce employees' pay, but said he'd resist cutting salaries for this reason: Salaries already are 15 percent below market, and the department struggles with too-high turnover in difficult jobs like child protection. "I would resist any reduction in salary," he said. "We've already reduced employee compensation 3.7 percent through the furlough process. The value of that is when the economy recovers, our wages are still only 15 percent below the market, rather than 20 percent below the market." Salary cuts, he said, would mean "our employees will leave. ... Our bench strength has been already stripped."

Sen. Nicole LeFavour, D-Boise, said the department's report is "quite sobering." She said, "We're the Legislature - we can choose to accept the consequences of this proposal, or we can say, 'That's not what we want to do.'" LeFavour said JFAC can't raises taxes, but that's the alternative to just cutting. She questioned "whether we should be asking the people who need services from the state most to bear all the burden, and our schools."

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Eye On Boise

Short takes and breaking news from the Idaho Legislature and the state capital.