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Eye On Boise

Bottom line: On state employee compensation, ‘we are below market’

After hearing about the two different salary surveys included in this year’s state CEC Report on state employee compensation, Sen. Grant Burgoyne, D-Boise, said he had a question. “Are we below, at or above market?” State Human Resources Director Susan Buxton responded, “We are below market.”

Burgoyne then asked, “Thank you. How much of an increase would it take to get us to market?” Buxton deferred to Malinda Riley of Hay Group.

Riley said there are a number of ways to measure that, but if you look at total compensation – the combination of both pay and benefits, compared to both the private sector and the public sector, “For total compensation you’re at about 10 percent below both markets. So they’re not too disparate. But it would definitely be more than 3 percent. If you’re going to hold benefits steady, you would definitely want to increase your salaries by a bit more than 3 percent in order to gain ground, to catch up.”

Gov. Butch Otter has recommended merit raises averaging 3 percent for state employees next year, the same as was approved for this year.

Burgoyne said with the economy booming, Idaho might find out that even if it raises pay substantially, the market grows more – and the state gains little ground compared to its goal of reaching market rates, which is enshrined in state law as Idaho’s salary policy.

Here’s what state law says about Idaho’s salary policy:

State Employee Compensation Philosophy – Idaho Code §67-5309A

(1) It is hereby declared to be the intent of the Legislature of the State of Idaho that the goal of a total compensation system for state employees shall be to fund a competitive employee compensation and benefit package that will attract qualified applicants to the workforce; retain employees who have a commitment to public service excellence; motivate employees to maintain high standards of productivity; and reward employees for outstanding performance.

(2) The foundation for this philosophy recognizes that state government is a service enterprise in which the state work force provides the most critical role for Idaho citizens. Maintaining a competitive compensation system is an integral, necessary and expected cost of providing the delivery of state services and is based on the following compensation standards:

(a) The state's overall compensation system, which includes both a salary and a benefit component, when taken as a whole, shall be competitive with relevant labor market averages.

(b) Advancement in pay shall be based on job performance and market changes.

(c) Pay for performance shall provide faster salary advancement for higher performers based on a merit increase matrix developed by the Division of Human Resources.

(d) All employees below the state's market average in a salary range who are meeting expectations in the performance of their jobs shall move through the pay range toward the market average.

(3)  It is hereby declared to be legislative intent that regardless of specific budgetary conditions from year to year, it is vital to fund necessary compensation adjustments each year to maintain market competitiveness in the compensation system. In order to provide this funding commitment in difficult fiscal conditions, it may be necessary to increase revenues, or to prioritize and eliminate certain functions or programs in state government, or to reduce the overall number of state employees in a given year, or any combination of such methods.



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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