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Eye On Boise

Tue., Feb. 19, 2013, 7:17 a.m.

First agency budget includes raises to bring low-paid workers up to par, but no general funds

Members of the Legislature's joint budget committee begin setting agency budgets on Tuesday morning. (Betsy Russell)
Members of the Legislature's joint budget committee begin setting agency budgets on Tuesday morning. (Betsy Russell)

The first budget up for consideration in JFAC this morning was the Department of Finance, which receives no state general tax funds; it operates entirely with fees on the industries it supervises. Rep. Rick Youngblood, R-Nampa, who noted that he is a banker – an industry overseen by the department – proposed a motion that includes an item above the governor’s recommendation: To spend $196,600 to move 19 staff in the department from below 80 percent of policy levels in their salaries, up to 93 percent of policy. That would be partly offset by cutting $53,000 from the department’s requested replacement items.

“Being in the industry, I just felt it was important that we look at these salary increases,” Youngblood said. “In this department, it’s easy to lose its people. These employees … are well-trained professionals. It’s easy to lose ‘em to the industry.” The change would amount to roughly a 4 percent increase. Sen. Dan Schmidt, D-Moscow, called the change “appropriate.” But Sen. Steve Vick, R-Dalton Gardens, said, “I just have a concern about the precedent that this might set, and I’ll be voting no.” The budget proposal then was approved on a 15-5 vote; the five “no” votes came from Vick and Sens. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, and Cliff Bayer, R-Boise; and Reps. Jeff Thompson, R-Idaho Falls; and Thyra Stevenson, R-Lewiston.

All state agency budgets are being built with zero funding for raises for state employees, unless JFAC members propose raises on a case-by-case basis. The votes today come after dozens of state employees filled a Capitol hearing room yesterday to tell lawmakers their pay is falling far short, and they see little opportunity for advancement without changing jobs.

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Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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