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Eye On Boise

Governor wants to rely on salary savings for any raises for state workers, JFAC raises concerns

More than half of state employees got some type of salary increase in 2013 through salary savings in their agencies, Jani Revier, Gov. Butch Otter’s budget chief, told JFAC this morning, even though no raises were funded in the state budget. Revier told lawmakers, “The governor is not recommending a CEC this year because of the significant increase we had in health care costs. We’re hoping we can get those increased costs under control, then we can begin to address the pay side of employee compensation.”

JFAC Co-Chair Maxine Bell, R-Jerome, said she’s “troubled” by that approach. “It seems to me there has always been a system in place,” Bell said. “It just seems that it’s not a fair and professional way, to wind up with you having to have salary savings. … I appreciate all of your information on it, I really do, but apparently we’ve gotten totally away from us putting money, if we had it, and then using it like it should be used. Salary savings sounds to me like you’re not doing something, you’re not filling a position, and those who get it are probably happier than those who don’t. … Running a system this big on salary savings really troubles me, and I’m wondering if we’ve totally lost sight of our responsibility to fund the system that’s in place and count the people that are there and then do what we can.”

Revier responded, “Salary savings is not a long-term solution to pay. … At some point, when we’re able to get our health care costs under control, we do need to look at the pay side of things.”

JFAC Co-Chair Dean Cameron, R-Rupert, asked Revier if the governor is recommending tapping salary savings next year again to address employee pay, and Revier said yes. Cameron said JFAC will need to quiz agency heads when they come before the joint committee about how they’ve used salary savings.

He also noted that while the governor is recommending paying the $12 million for the employer’s share of increased health care costs for state employees, he’s not recommending that the state pick up the employee’s share. “So there would potentially be some employees who would take a reduction in salary, because of their picking up the additional costs of their side of the health insurance?” he asked. Revier responded, “I believe that is correct.”

Cameron said, “I do know that we do have some agencies that are losing employees because of compensation issues, so we have to address that some way.”

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Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.

Named best state-based political blog in Idaho for 2013 by The Fix

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