The Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee has begun agency budget-setting this morning, starting with some smaller ones, including the Department of Finance, Industrial Commission, state lottery, the Endowment Fund Investment Board and the Public Utilities Commission. Bigger decisions are up later in the week, including the Attorney General’s office and the Department of Fish & Game on Friday; the public school budget-setting is set for March 3.
One divided vote this morning came on the budget for the Endowment Fund Investment Board, in which Rep. Shirley Ringo, D-Moscow, proposed granting the board’s request for an $18,400 raise for the board’s investment manager, Larry Johnson. “This is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly,” Ringo said. “This is a very important position, in my opinion, with a great deal of responsibility attached to it.” Similar positions across the country pay a median salary of $220,000, Ringo noted. “That’s almost $83,000 above the pay that this position is currently getting. … It would appear that we’re simply not competitive here.” She noted that a similar increase was approved several years ago for PERSI's investment manager.
Sen. Sheryl Nuxoll, R-Cottonwood, said she couldn’t support the boost in view of other agencies, like the state Department of Correction, with “correctional officers, how much they need an increase just to make a living.” But the motion passed on a 13-7 vote. Those voting “no” were Nuxoll, Sens. Johnson, Vick and Bayer, and Reps. Thompson, Stevenson and Schmidt.
Unlike the Department of Correction, the Endowment Fund Investment Board receives no state general tax funds. It is instead funded entirely with dedicated funds that come from endowment earnings. The investment manager’s current salary is $137,200, plus $36,100 for benefits. The salary increase includes $15,000 for increased salary and $3,400 for benefits. Gov. Butch Otter didn't recommend funding the raise in his budget proposal.