Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, said she didn’t object in JFAC this morning to a budget-setting framework for state agency budgets that doesn’t include raises for state employees because “the number that the committee agreed to budget to didn’t have any room for CEC,” or change in employee compensation. Yet, Ringo said, state law requires the state to address state worker compensation and move workers to policy pay levels, a standard from which it’s falling far short. “I have a bill prepared to generate the revenue that would then be able to support that,” Ringo said. “I’m still talking to the chair of Rev & Tax about when that bill will be heard. Our problem is revenue. I’m hoping that the people on this committee get a real picture as to how some of these revenue decisions we make, such as the $35 million tax cut last year, affect our ability to meet our obligations. CEC increases are in Idaho code. We’ve been totally ignoring that.”
In fact, in past years, the Legislature held hearings each year in the House and Senate Commerce & Human Resources committees to hear from state employees on compensation issues and decide about CEC each year; they don’t any longer. As a result, Ringo and Rep. Phylis King, D-Boise, have scheduled their own hearing for Monday, from 4-6 p.m. in room EW 42, and are inviting state workers and the public to comment on issues ranging from wages, workload and training to the condition of state buildings and the adequacy of technology.
Ringo said she’s drafted legislation for a 5 percent surcharge on income tax for those with taxable incomes of more than $50,000 a year, which is roughly equivalent to gross income of $75,000 a year or more. That would raise about $44 million a year, enough for a 2 percent CEC next year plus moving all state employees to 90 percent of the policy-level pay for their position, and leave some left over. Ringo said the revenue could also go to such items as deferred maintenance on state buildings. “I think the bottom line is we have some needs,” she said. “I think we have an incredible need for some additional revenue.”