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JFAC wrestles with lack of raises for state employees

Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, argues for raises for state employees (Betsy Russell)
Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, argues for raises for state employees (Betsy Russell)

After setting the first seven agency budgets this morning, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee unanimously agreed to urge state agencies to grant raises to employees if they can find the money through salary savings. “The Legislature finds that investing in state employee compensation should remain a high priority even in tough economic times,” the joint committee’s statement says; it will be written into every state agency budget bill.

Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, said that wasn’t enough. “After setting the 3 percent spending limit, at the time we did it, I felt that I needed to look further into what the numbers might allow,” Ringo said. “If we were simply to take all of the agencies and move them a fourth of the way from where they are to 90 percent of policy, that amount that that would cost is almost exactly the same as a 1 percent change in CEC, and only … 2/10 of a percent of the total amount that we’re budgeting. So I feel that we definitely have room to do this.”

She added, “I feel that we’ve made public employees feel that they’re kind of at the bottom of our priority list recently.” She read from state law that requires lawmakers to prioritize employee compensation, even in tough budget times – and even if it requires raising additional revenue or changing priorities. “What I’m asking the committee to do here is consistent with code, and it’s asking that we prioritize,” Ringo said. She moved to reconsider last Friday’s committee vote to write in zero for CEC, or Change in Employee Compensation, in state agency budgets. That reconsideration would require a two-thirds vote. But it failed on a 4-14 party-line vote, ending that discussion, and wrapping up the committee’s work for the day.

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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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