Eye On Boise

No pay cut for Idaho lawmakers

Here's a news item from the Associated Press:  BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A panel appointed to set pay for state lawmakers has decided against salary cuts, recommending that legislators keep their current salaries at $16,116 a year. The Legislative Compensation Committee approved the recommendation Wednesday despite strong objections from panel member Deb Kristensen, who argued that state lawmakers should take at least a 2 percent pay cut. Kristensen says the recommendation to not reduce the salaries of Idaho lawmakers sends the wrong message at a time when state workers have been laid off and forced to take unpaid furlough days. Instead of cutting pay, the committee opted to reduce how much lawmakers receive for constituent services to $1,875. Lawmakers living within 50 miles of Boise would still receive $49 per day during the session, under the proposal. Those living outside Boise who maintain second residences would still get $122 per day.

Click below for a full report from AP reporter Jessie Bonner.

Panel opts not to cut Idaho lawmaker pay
By JESSIE L. BONNER, Associated Press Writer

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A panel appointed to set pay for Idaho lawmakers has recommended that legislators keep their current salaries at $16,116 a year, in a decision Wednesday.

The Idaho Legislative Compensation Committee opted against pay cuts and instead, reduced how much lawmakers receive for constituent services by more than $300, bringing that down to $1,875.

Panel member Deb Kristensen argued that state lawmakers should at least have to take a 2 percent pay cut at a time when state workers have been laid off, lost benefits or forced to take unpaid furlough.

"I think it really sends the wrong message, if we don't do something to cut their current level when everyone else has taken a cut, in some form or another," Kristensen said.

Committee chairman Rich Jackson countered that Idaho's legislative salaries have been dormant since December 2006 and during that time, lawmakers rejected a proposal that would have increased their pay.

Republican and Democratic lawmakers turned down a 5 percent pay increase last year, as Idaho's poor economy made it politically impossible for them to accept the raises at a time when others were losing their jobs.

The increase would have boosted their pay to $16,921, but the plan was rejected.

"Their salary has been basically frozen," Jackson said.

Lawmakers living within 50 miles of Boise would still receive $49 per day during the session, under the new recommendation. Those living outside Boise who maintain second residences would still get $122 per day.

Idaho's lawmakers, who are in session for about three months of the year, also receive health and pension benefits. The committee deliberated on whether legislators should be treated as part-time state workers, who were forced to start paying higher insurance premiums last year.

While the committee acknowledged that lawmakers conduct a part-time Legislature and most have day jobs in their home cities, panel members also noted the long hours that legislators put in outside the session.

"I don't think it's too hard to make the case that they're full-time," committee member Bill Daniels said.

The committee ultimately decided it was outside their role to determine whether legislators are full-time or part-time workers, and agreed to send a letter asking House and Senate lawmakers to make the determination.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.




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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Russell covers Idaho news from the state capitol in Boise and writes the Eye on Boise blog.

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